Rural Roots tapping into vein of rural rage

A dispute over a new land-use bylaw in Mountain View County is heating up with a local rural association trying to rally hundreds outside county offices in Didsbury next Wednesday.

A dispute over a new land-use bylaw in Mountain View County is heating up with a local rural association trying to rally hundreds outside county offices in Didsbury next Wednesday.

“I think you’re going to see several hundred people there,” said former Wild Rose riding MP Myron Thompson, who has been hired to represent the Rural Roots Association.

The association has hosted five public meetings in the last couple of weeks and drawn more than 1,300 residents to Westcott Hall, Didsbury, Sundre, Cremona and Carstairs.

Names have been collected on six petitions, which will be presented to county council at the rally. One of the petitions urges council to drop the current version of a new land-use bylaw, which has become a lightning rod for landowner discontent.

Residents fear the bylaw is overly restrictive and goes too far in limiting what people can do with their property.

The association also wants Alberta Municipal Affairs to review how the municipality is being run.

“People are ready to do something. They’re riled up. They’ve had enough,” said Thompson.

“Remember, we’re an agricultural county and don’t favour urbanization to the degree proposed in the land-use bylaw.”

Another petition urges the county to drop its plan to introduce offsite levies. Common in many municipalities, the levies are charged to developers, usually to help pay for roads needed to serve new subdivisions.

Thompson’s criticism of county councillors for not attending the association’s meetings, the last of which was scheduled for Olds on Tuesday night, is a sign of how testy relations have become between the county and the association.

County councillor Gerald Ingeveld said council and senior administrators have decided not to attend future meetings of a landowner association after facing such a hostile reception that safety concerns were raised.

Ingeveld said he was told to keep his mouth shut by one participant at a gathering in Didsbury last week and chief administrative officer Doug Plamping was denied access to a meeting the following night in Sundre.

“We decided we wouldn’t attend the meetings because they were getting a little rough,” said Ingeveld, who had been picked by council to represent the county at the meetings of the association, which opposes a new land-use bylaw and has criticized the county for ignoring the concerns of rural ratepayers.

Ingeveld is disappointed that those who are critical of the county having been throwing around a lot of accusations, but there hasn’t been an opportunity at the meetings for the county to address concerns and present their information.

Association president Paddy Munro said their biggest concern is the county’s insistence on pursuing high-density developments in rural settings against the wishes of the vast majority of ratepayers.

“The issue we’re fighting so hard to stop is the urbanization of this county,” he said.

One proposed development would see 51 lots built on about 23 acres and other areas along major collector roads have been marked as suitable for large residential developments.

“Nobody in the county wants this level of density of development,” he said.

“The towns should be towns and the country should be country.”

Munro believes a successful rally will send a strong message.

“Our biggest goal is to get this council to listen.” The Didsbury rally is set for 1 p.m.

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