More immediately, the town’s municipal development plan — a living document that broadly envisions Pincher Creek’s future — is now 10 years out of date.
“There’s lots of work to be done internally before we can make changes in the community,” she said.
To that end, Lucas brings years of experience in Alberta and neighbouring British Columbia, having served in top administrative positions with Calgary’s Tsuut’ina First Nation and nearby Wheatland County.
Born in England and raised in Australia (Lucas joked that she’ll never outgrow her “Aussie twang”), she holds a master’s degree in environmental design and planning from the University of Calgary.
Credentials aside, Lucas was the last candidate standing after a tough selection and interview process that started back in September.
Lucas has been working alongside outgoing CAO Laurie Wilgosh since January.
Wilgosh will step down for good in March, having held the position for 14 years.
Pincher Creek’s top civic administrator will retire this spring, marking the end of an era at town hall.
Laurie Wilgosh, chief administrative officer for the last 14 years, informed mayor and council in September that she planned to step down after lining up a suitable replacement.
“It’s time to spend more time with my family,” she told Shootin’ the Breeze from behind her desk last Thursday.
Wilgosh will stay on until the end of the month, when she’ll be succeeded by the town’s new CAO, Angie Lucas.
Wilgosh started with the Town of Pincher Creek in 2008, when she was hired as director of corporate services. Within six months, she’d replaced outgoing CAO Fran Kornfeld.
Wilgosh had served as neighbouring Cowley’s CAO for 20 years, but experience is no guarantee of longevity in her line of work.
It’s the CAO’s job to manage the town’s administration while advising council on the complex legislative requirements and industry best practices that define local government. It’s not easy squaring civic priorities with the people who craft them, and Wilgosh noted that CAOs don’t always get to plan their exits.
“If the residents are not satisfied with their service delivery, they’ll take that to council and, sometimes, councils decide that the best way to meet those needs is to start fresh with somebody new.”
As Mayor Don Anderberg wryly observed, “There’s politics and council members, but administrators have to be great politicians without showing it.”
That Wilgosh thrived in her position for so long “speaks a lot to her abilities and the type of person she is,” he said Monday.
But Wilgosh was slow to tout her accomplishments, speaking instead in the calm, clipped statements of a veteran administrator.
“Things were rather fragmented when I started,” she noted, adding that she was proud to leave behind a strong, cohesive team.
She’d presided over successful contract negotiations with CUPE 927, the union local that represents town hall’s roughly 25 staff. She was at the helm throughout the pandemic, as her team managed not just to keep Pincher Creek running, but to open two brand new child-care facilities in the summer of 2020.
Wilgosh highlighted the town’s working relationship with the municipal district, remembering fondly that both councils partnered on the opening of Pincher Creek’s new humane society on Kettles Street.
The only time she seemed to speak without thinking was when she was asked what she’d miss the most about her job.
“The people,” she said. “I have a fantastic team.”
Angie Lucas started as interim CAO on Tuesday, making her first public appearance at that morning’s committee of the whole meeting. Lucas will assume her full duties Feb. 1, with Wilgosh staying on in an advisory role until her last day on March 31.
Town council is considering an increase to mayors’ monthly stipends.
The proposed bump came up for discussion at chambers Nov. 28 in the form of a proposed amendment to Pincher Creek’s remuneration bylaw for councillors and mayors.
If passed, the amendment would increase mayors’ stipends by $125 per month, a roughly 11.5 per cent raise from $1,075 to $1,200.
The amendment wouldn’t change councillors’ stipends, now set at $600 per month.
Mayor Don Anderberg recused himself from council’s deliberations, with Coun. David Green presiding as deputy mayor.
Anderberg spoke briefly on the amendment Friday, explaining that council will decide whether or not to pass the amendment.
“When you’re working for someone, or you own your own business, and you run for council, there’s a cost to that,” he said.
Mayors and councillors are paid $235 for every council meeting they attend. They are paid $120 for committee meetings that run up to three hours and $235 for those that run longer, according to the bylaw amendment.
Crowsnest Pass council upped pay for mayor and councillors this fall, bringing councillors’ monthly stipends to $965, and $1,350 for the mayor. The municipality pays $150 for committee meetings of less than three hours, and $275 for meetings that run longer, according to the minutes of council’s Sept. 27 regular meeting.
Pincher Creek council will revisit the amendment proposal at its next regular meeting Monday, Dec. 12, according to chief administrative officer Laurie Wilgosh.
Pincher Creek’s town council voted late Monday to defer its vote on a bylaw amendment designed to regulate short-term rentals within town limits.
Monday’s decision at chambers followed a lengthy public hearing that saw around 50 residents and at least one out-of-town investor pile into the gym at town hall, with many speaking for and against the amendment.
If passed, the amendment would put permitting and licensing requirements on upwards of 20 short-term rentals already operating in town through tourist accommodation websites like Airbnb and VRBO, and limiting STRs not lived in by their operators to five per cent of homes per residential street.
No such limit would apply to STRs with live-in operators. Bed-and-breakfast operators would not be allowed to operate STRs on their licenced premises.
Pincher Creek’s current land use bylaw doesn’t mention STRs at all, though in practice, town hall has granted business licences on an ad-hoc basis to operators that have applied, according to chief administrative officer Laurie Wilgosh.
The bylaw was drafted by Steve Harty of the Lethbridge planning commission, Oldman River Regional Services, which Wilgosh said provides planning and development guidance to Pincher Creek and several outlying municipalities.
Reading his council report to start Monday’s hearing, Harty told the audience that the town’s STR industry needs some form of regulation amid growing concerns on the part of operators who want clear expectations from town hall and residents who say STRs are putting pressure on the town’s tight long-term rental and real estate markets. STRs are meanwhile subject to the province’s new tourist levy and the federal GST, Harty added.
Speaking for the amendment, Lane Heggie said he owned and operated a purpose-built STR on the 1000-block of Livingston Way, but doesn’t live in Pincher Creek.
Clear, reasonable regulations would serve the community well, he said, adding that operators should talk frequently with their neighbours to speedily resolve conflicts.
Lynn Brasnett, a longtime area Realtor and former rental property manager, pointedly reminded the audience that shutting out STRs would do little to boost the town’s rental stock.
“We have run a less than one per cent vacancy rate in this town for over 30 years,” she said, insisting that many STR operators would likely have to sell off their investment properties if they couldn’t market their services on Airbnb, or the like.
Japhia Epp told Monday’s hearing that her and her husband’s short-term rentals boost other small businesses in Pincher Creek. Photo by Laurie Tritschler
Pincher Creek residents Joan Brees, left, and Chantal Laliberte chat before addressing Monday’s public hearing. Photo by Laurie Tritschler
Coun. Brian Wright looks on as Realtor Lynn Brasnett speaks at Monday’s public hearing. Photo by Laurie Tritschler
Jenae Toews, who runs an STR in town with her husband, agreed.
“At this time in our lives, with my husband doing school, we more than likely wouldn’t be able to afford to keep the property as a long-term rental,” she said.
Japhia Epp, a paramedic with Pincher Creek Emergency Services, said she and her husband own three long-term rentals and four STRs.
“We get a lot of families that come to Pincher Creek, and some of them say, ‘We would not come here if there wasn’t a place to stay like this.’ ”
Epp went on to say that she and her husband actively promote other local businesses to their Airbnb guests.
Coun. Wayne Oliver then asked Epp how she’d feel about living next to an STR.
“I am a neighbour to a short-term rental in this community,” she replied. “I do know the owners of the house and have regular communication with them. The idea is that, ‘If anything goes wrong, you let me know.’ ”
Speaking against the bylaw, Chantal Laliberte stressed the town’s burgeoning housing crisis.
“If Pincher Creek was a town with plenty of long-term rentals and plenty of affordable housing, I wouldn’t be standing here, talking to you
“Housing is not like any other commodity. It’s not like gold, which is a commodity but is not a human right,” she said, drawing on the UN’s founding text, which enshrines the right to adequate housing.
Joan Brees then took the podium, listing 22 questions and concerns from residents she said weren’t able to attend the hearing. These ranged from the town’s apparent lack of authority to enforce whatever regulations council might approve to noise complaints, parking shortages and safety concerns by worried neighbours.
One resident who spoke to Brees said a vacation home on their block had been rented to 15 people “and kiddos” last summer. Residents don’t want to see “party people” take over their streets, Brees said.
Sgt. Ryan Hodge, commanding officer at Pincher Creek RCMP, said Monday afternoon that he was not aware of any 911 complaints specifically related to disturbances or noise complaints at local STRs.
Pat Neumann, chief of Pincher Creek Emergency Services, said in a written statement to council that he would welcome the amendment’s regulations, noting that a map of active STRs would probably help fire and ambulance crews.
Presiding over council’s meeting at chambers, Mayor Don Anderberg and Coun. Oliver were quick to suggest putting off a final vote.
“Getting this right would be nice, right off the bat,” Anderberg said.
While he was personally in favour of regulating STRs, the mayor cautioned that council needed more time to deliberate.
Coun. Sahra Nodge countered that council should come to a vote, having just taken in “a very respectful, very informative public hearing.”
But the emerging consensus resolved that the amendment needed tightening up, ending in a unanimous vote to revisit the amendment at council’s next meeting, Monday, Nov. 28.