Downtown Pincher Creek blooms
Laura Rance, a maintenance worker with the Town of Pincher Creek, smiles as she tends to the flowers outside of Shootin’ the Breeze on Main Street.
Laura Rance, a maintenance worker with the Town of Pincher Creek, smiles as she tends to the flowers outside of Shootin’ the Breeze on Main Street.
The Town of Pincher Creek has received a petition against a contentious borrowing bylaw for a new curling rink, according to chief administrative officer Angie Lucas.
Lucas has 45 days to determine if the petition satisfies a host of conditions specified in the Municipal Government Act.
The petition, which calls on council to put the borrowing bylaw to a referendum, needs signatures from at least 10 per cent of town residents, which amounts to around 360 people, according to the 2021 census. Signatures must be witnessed and dated, with the names of petitioners clearly written out, among other MGA requirements.
If Lucas finds that the petition satisfies the Act, council must either drop the borrowing bylaw or put it to a referendum of town residents within 90 days.
If not, council could pass the bylaw, which would authorize council to take out a $4 million construction loan.
If the bylaw fails, council could finance the new rink through the town’s capital reserves, or through a combination of reserves and borrowed money according to a March 27 memo attached to council’s agenda.
Elizabeth Dolman, who submitted the petition on Thursday, March 30, said it received 394 signatures. Lucas confirmed that number, but said she hadn’t reviewed the petition.
Opponents of the curling rink build say the project would unduly distract from the town’s affordable housing shortage, and that council hasn’t presented enough relevant information.
Supporters say the build’s estimated $4 million price tag wouldn’t overly burden municipal taxpayers because the town will likely qualify for federal grant funding for up to 60 per cent of construction costs. Council is meanwhile working on proposed housing solutions, supporters say.
Few on either side would say the town’s aging curling rink at 837 Main St. has much more life to give. The building is visibly unsound and various engineering studies, mounted at the town’s expense, have found the building is beyond repair.
Finance director Wendy Catonio declined to speculate in an interview with Shootin’ the Breeze last week about how or if the build might affect town taxpayers.
The town is carrying an unremarkable debt load (around $3.6 million as of the new year), she said. Passing the borrowing bylaw would not instantly dump any money onto that burden. Instead, Catonio explained that it would allow council to take out a loan of up to $4 million.
The town would be on the hook for whatever amount council draws on the loan, Catonio said.
The Pincher Creek Curling Club owns and operates the Main Street curling rink at the club’s expense. The town owns the land on which the rink sits.
The club’s membership is roughly evenly split between town and MD residents, according to outgoing president Glenda Kettles.
There is no plan for what to do with the Main Street lot after the curling rink inevitably comes down, according to an FAQ page on the town’s website.
A petition circulating in Pincher Creek could upset council’s plan to build a new curling rink, according to an administration report in council’s March 27 agenda.
The petition, launched by town resident Elizabeth Dolman on March 17, aims to block the passage of a borrowing bylaw for a multi-million-dollar construction loan, pending a referendum on the loan, Dolman told Shootin’ the Breeze.
“We don’t have enough information [about the curling rink project],” Dolman said, questioning the potential tax implications and calling for more attention to other civic priorities, namely housing.
“Curling is a wonderful thing, … but people can’t move here for jobs because there’s no place to live. The town’s known this for at least 20 years, and they’ve made plans here and there. But they haven’t done anything yet,” she continued.
The petition is the latest development in a long-running and hotly contentious debate about whether or not to build a new rink and where to build it.
Whatever might be said of the project, the town’s existing curling rink at 837 Main St. is at the end of its working life, according to structural studies dating back at least to 2008. The rink is run by the Pincher Creek Curling Club, at the club’s expense. The club has around 150 members, roughly evenly split between the town and MD of Pincher Creek, according to outgoing president Glenda Kettles.
Council on Feb. 13 narrowly passed a resolution to build a new rink at the Community Recreation Centre at 942 Hyde St., to be renamed the CRC and Events Centre if the build goes ahead. The borrowing bylaw, still before council, was given the first of three readings at chambers on Feb. 27.
Second and third readings are not listed on council’s March 27 agenda.
Pincher Creek holds approximately $3.5 million in debt as of the new year — roughly $1.85 million for the town’s early learning centres and around $1.65 million for Pincher Creek RCMP’s current headquarters at 1369 Hunter St., according to finance director Wendy Catonio.
That burden represents just under one quarter of the town’s approximately $15 million allowable debt limit, which the Municipal Government Act caps at 150 per cent of a municipality’s most recent annual revenue. For context, Catonio said the town’s current debt load is unremarkable compared to regional municipalities.
If passed, the borrowing bylaw would authorize council to take out a loan for up to $4 million in estimated construction costs for the curling rink build. The town would then be obligated to pay down whatever amount it draws on the loan.
The town has meanwhile applied for a federal grant that could cover up to 60 per cent of the build. Tristan Walker, the town and neighbouring MD’s energy project lead, said he hoped for a decision by the grant funder sometime this summer.
Town council in 2017 committed $1.25 million to match the curling club’s hoped-for grant through the province’s Community Facility Enhancement Program. The CFEP grant didn’t come through, and council has included the $1.25 million commitment in subsequent budgets.
The $1.25 million was always intended to be financed through a loan rather than the town’s capital reserves, Catonio explained.
Coun. Mark Barber, a longtime supporter of the build, told council last month that the curling club would contribute $200,000 through fundraising efforts, adding that the club would donate its ice plant, which Barber said was worth $500,000.
Barber also said the MD would probably kick in some money. Reeve Rick Lemire later told the Breeze that MD council discussed that possibility in a joint session with town council, but the MD hasn’t made any financial commitments.
In order to be successful, Dolman’s petition would have to satisfy a number of conditions listed in the MGA.
Petitions to council need signatures from 10 per cent of municipal residents, which amounts to roughly 360 people in Pincher Creek, according to the 2021 census.
The petition would have to come to Angie Lucas, the town’s new chief administrative officer, no later than March 30. Lucas would then have 45 days to decide if the petition satisfies the Act’s requirements.
If the petition holds up, council would have to either scrap the curling rink build or put the borrowing bylaw to a town referendum. If the petition fails, council could pass the borrowing bylaw and move ahead with the project, according to Lucas’s latest report to council.
Lucas has recommended that council receive for information an explainer at chambers Monday evening about the petition process.
Few of the project’s vital details have been made public as of Friday afternoon, including a detailed cost estimate, according to an FAQ page on the town’s website.
The curling club owns the existing rink, while the town owns the land on which it sits. There is no plan for what happens at the old curling rink after the building comes down, nor information about the financial implications for the town and tax implications for residents, the FAQ page explains.
The curling club did not respond to a request for an interview before Shootin’ the Breeze published this story online on Friday afternoon.
Roughly 170 people had signed Dolman’s petition to that point. Dolman has said she will continue to collect signatures at Ranchland Mall over the weekend.
Kettles said Friday that the curling club has so far raised around $100,000 toward the new rink.
Pincher Creek’s new chief administrative officer has set her sights on long-term planning as mayor and council update the town’s policy framework.
Angie Lucas, who officially took the reins late last month, said last Friday that Pincher Creek is already a regional centre.
From its retail shops and parks to its hospital, Lucas said the town and its roughly 3,400 residents are a steady draw for about 35,000 people across southwestern Alberta.
The region is still emerging from an economic downturn that hit before the Covid-19 pandemic, but, “It’s 2023 now, and people want to do business here,” Lucas told Shootin’ the Breeze.
The town is facing a number of challenges, though, especially its lack of affordable housing.
“If people want to come here and work, there’s nowhere for them to live. And if businesses can’t get staff, they can’t grow,” Lucas said, noting that mayor and council are on top of the situation.
“There’s plenty of long-range capital planning to do,” which already has Lucas’s staff taking stock of municipal facilities.
“Are we looking after them correctly? What’s our operating budget saying?” she pondered.
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.
A Pincher Creek councillor who works for an electricity wholesaler is the subject of a complaint that he was in a conflict of interest when he participated in a recent public information session hosted by his employer.
Wayne Oliver, now in his second term on town council, said he’s worked for TransAlta Corp. for 18 years. As the company’s Wind Operations Supervisor for Western Canada, Oliver said he looks after 13 wind farms and one battery storage site across southern Alberta.
He attended TransAlta’s Feb. 17 information session at Hill Spring Community Centre to answer questions about a wind farm TransAlta hopes to build in Cardston County as part of its proposed Riplinger renewable energy project, Oliver told Shootin’ the Breeze on Feb. 28.
“It seems to me that this is a conflict of interest” according to council’s code of conduct (Bylaw 1622-18), the complainant stated in a letter attached to council’s Feb. 27 agenda.
The complainant, whose name is redacted from the letter, wrote that the Riplinger project would feed into a 45-kilometre transmission line through the Municipal District of Pincher Creek, which borders Cardston County.
“I believe the Town of Pincher Creek has an inherent relationship to the proposed project,” the letter states, adding that Oliver’s presence at the Hill Spring session “could be seen as potentially using one’s councillor influence for the financial gain or benefits to their associated business/employer,” regardless of whether he attended as a town councillor or a company employee.
“I thought it was just another day at TransAlta,” Oliver told the Breeze.
“I don’t think I was in a conflict of interest,” he said, noting that the info session was no different than the dozen other public meetings he’s attended for other TransAlta projects in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
His professional involvement with Riplinger would happen after the project is built, assuming that it’s approved by the Alberta Utilities Commission, which regulates the province’s utility sector.
“Sometimes, I conduct my life and forget that people view me as a town councillor. I’m now aware of this potential perception and I’ll manage my affairs with that in mind,” he said.
Oliver recused himself when council addressed the letter at chambers.
“From my point of view, we really have no jurisdiction [over Riplinger] unless we become an intervener somehow: We’re not really involved,” Mayor Don Anderberg said.
TransAlta has not submitted an application to the AUC on behalf of Riplinger, nor has it put in for the necessary permitting for the transmission line, James Mottershead, spokesperson for TransAlta, told the Breeze on Feb. 17.
A consultant retained by TransAlta said the transmission line would likely go through the MD, but qualified that it would be routed according to the Alberta Electric System Operator, the non-profit organization that oversees planning for the province’s electrical grid.
Pincher Creek town council unanimously voted to conduct a review of its code of conduct.
“Council members must be vigilant to avoid any perception or actual activity which may be seen as a conflict of interest” and “must never use their influence as elected representatives for personal advantage,” the code states.
“Frankly, I get paid the same whether Riplinger gets built or not. So, there’s no financial gain for me,” Oliver said.
The Town of Pincher Creek is leaving Alberta’s community peace officer program following the departure of its two CPOs starting last October, according to Mayor Don Anderberg.
Municipal bylaws will be enforced by a dedicated bylaw officer as soon as town hall hires a suitable candidate. The town will also hire a full-time bylaw and safety co-ordinator to stay on top of training requirements and enforcement priorities, Lisa Goss, town hall’s head of legislative services, told Shootin’ the Breeze.
Goss said her office is reviewing applications, but qualified that the hiring process will take as long as needed.
Pincher Creek participated in the CPO program for about 10 years, but recent changes to the town’s legislative obligations under the Peace Officer Act spurred council to reassess the program’s value after the former CPOs took jobs outside the municipality, Anderberg explained.
“It was getting a little onerous for us. We’re now focusing back on what we believe to be the core issues around bylaw enforcement,” he told the Breeze last Thursday.
The province runs the program through the Justice Ministry, while municipalities and other eligible agencies hire CPOs and set the limits of their authority, according to the program’s March 2022 policy and procedures manual.
Pincher Creek’s CPOs enforced municipal bylaws and some provincial laws, handling traffic violations through the Traffic Act, according to Anderberg and Goss.
Anderberg said the CPOs’ broader focus sometimes came at the expense of local bylaw enforcement, noting that Pincher Creek RCMP have “really stepped up” local traffic enforcement. The town’s chief administrative officer was meanwhile required to sign off on CPOs’ paperwork as per the Peace Officer Act, which Anderberg said ate up time and resources.
“It was cumbersome [for administration] to manage the program. It certainly took time,” Goss elaborated.
She said town hall recommended transitioning back to bylaw officers after reviewing enforcement strategies taken by the MD, Cowley, Crowsnest Pass, Cowley and Cardston County.
Fort Macleod left the program three years ago, citing the province’s “downloading” of policing costs onto small municipalities starting in 2020, according to a press release on the town’s website.
Crowsnest Pass has stayed in the program, and now employs three CPOs to handle traffic and enforce municipal bylaws, according to a spokesperson for the municipality.
Pincher Creek’s new bylaw officer will have a working relationship with Pincher Creek RCMP.
The town’s former CPOs left separately last October and December, Goss said.
A proposed wind farm in Cardston County is facing opposition from a group of residents who say the project threatens the region’s sensitive environment and that their voices are being ignored as the project approaches the regulatory phase.
The project, dubbed Riplinger by Calgary electricity wholesaler TransAlta, has meanwhile drawn the attention of Pincher Creek’s MD, where the company will likely seek to build a transmission line, according to an information package sent last December to county residents within 1.5 kilometres of the project’s tentative boundaries.
The Riplinger farm would generate power from 46 wind turbines on 14,000 acres of private land roughly 30 kilometres southeast of Pincher Creek, the package states. James Mottershead, spokesman for TransAlta, later told Shootin’ the Breeze the project would involve 50 turbines.
Mottershead said TransAlta “introduced” Riplinger to the MD in May 2022, though the company has not filed an application with the Alberta Utilities Commission, which has broad authority to approve utility projects.
Many people who attended TransAlta’s public information session in Cardston County’s village of Hill Spring last Friday were asked to sign a petition circulated by Riplinger’s opponents.
“This is the wrong place for a wind farm,” Bill Merry said as locals steadily filed into the village community centre.
Merry said he was frustrated that TransAlta “has done absolutely the bare minimum in communicating with the project’s stakeholders,” many of whom Merry said live beyond Riplinger’s 1.5-kilometre radius.
“It’s like they’re trying to shove this under the rug,” he added.
Angela Tabak, who lives in the nearby hamlet of Mountain View, said she’d been networking with residents within the project radius, who can intervene if they notify the AUC that they will be directly and adversely affected by Riplinger.
Merry and Tabak said they hoped for a public hearing where TransAlta would be called to show its plans to protect migratory birds and other wildlife species, as well as the wetlands between the Waterton and Belly rivers. Fifty people had signed the petition roughly an hour after doors opened at the community centre.
Speaking to MD councillors at chambers on Feb. 14, Reeve Rick Lemire held up TransAlta’s information package, which outlines a host of federal and provincial bodies that will enter the regulatory process ahead of the MD and Cardston County.
“This is where we fit into the hierarchy of approvals — when everything else is done,” he told council.
The AUC can approve utility projects over the objections of local governments, according to Alberta’s Municipal Government Act.
“The commission takes into account local governments’ positions on projects, both when they support a project and when they oppose a project. It is incredibly helpful to the commission for municipalities to participate in the AUC’s decision-making process,” AUC spokesman Geoff Scotton told the Breeze.
Paul McLauchlin, president of the Rural Municipalities of Alberta, takes a different view.
The AUC “ignores municipal planning authority on a regular basis,” he said earlier this month. “They actually institutionally ignore it.”
McLauchlin said renewable energy will play a critical role in southwestern Alberta’s economic future, adding that many food producers have welcomed projects like Riplinger because developers typically pay well to lease private land. That money spurs investment in ranches and farms, but McLauchlin warned that unchecked development on arable land would jeopardize regional food security.
James Van Leeuwen, who heads a power company in Pincher Creek and sits on the Southwest Alberta Sustainable Community Initiative’s board of directors, said Riplinger would be “unremarkable” if it weren’t tentatively sited near the Waterton Biosphere Reserve, an environmentally sensitive area designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 1979.
“Waterton is an ecological gem,” he said.
Van Leeuwen participated in SASCI’s 2018 regional economic study, which was commissioned by Shell Canada, the Town of Pincher Creek and the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, shortly after Shell announced it would probably shutter its Waterton gas plant (Shell Waterton) by 2030.
Shell Waterton employed about 100 people when SASCI published its findings. Most lived in the town of Pincher Creek, while the plant generated about 20 per cent of tax revenue in the surrounding MD.
The study found that Shell Waterton generated 10 per cent of regional GDP, which renewable energy projects can’t match.
Van Leeuwen noted that renewable energy projects might pose similar environmental impacts at the construction phase, especially because concrete and steel bear heavy carbon footprints.
“But that’s not the point,” Van Leeuwen said. “What we’re looking at are the impacts over the lifetime of the infrastructure and for renewable energy.… We’re displacing a high-impact energy source with a low environmental impact energy source.”
Speaking at last Friday’s info session in Hill Spring, James Mottershead said TransAlta hasn’t finalized plans for Riplinger, including the proposed transmission line.
Ryan Desrosiers, an environmental consultant retained by TransAlta, said the line would probably come through the MD. Transmission lines are regulated by the AUC in conjunction with the Alberta Electric System Operator, according to Geoff Scotton.
Desrosiers said TransAlta hopes to host an information session in the MD sometime this spring.
TransAlta hopes to submit its application for Riplinger to the AUC by June, according to Mottershead.
Town council has directed administration to review its snow and ice policy, following a flurry of complaints by concerned residents.
Alexa Levair, Pincher Creek’s director of operations, was asked to speak to the town’s snow and ice policy when council met at last week’s committee of the whole. The policy, which is available for viewing on the town’s website, prioritizes hills, emergency routes and the downtown core along Main Street for sanding and snowplowing.
School zones and traffic signs are listed as second- and third-level priorities.
Councillors said they’d heard complaints over the Christmas holiday from residents who felt their streets ought to have been plowed.
“I was definitely told by some members of our community that Adelaide Street wasn’t being looked after,” Coun. Mark Barber told the committee, referring to a nearby condominium complex that caters to seniors.
“I was hoping that the seniors centres were on high-priority snow removal,” he added.
Levair reminded council that, while such complaints are common, Pincher Creek’s snow and ice policy doesn’t prioritize residential streets.
Despite prevalent misconceptions to the contrary, Levair pointed out that “We aren’t actively plowing every single residential road whenever it snows.”
The town has neither the staff and equipment nor the budget to do much more in terms of plowing and removing snow, she explained.
Mayor Don Anderberg said he’d heard similar complaints, but suggested that a previous council had prioritized snowplowing on Hewetson Avenue leading up to the intersection of Adelaide Street.
Speaking at her office Thursday, Levair said snowplowing isn’t as easy as it might appear.
“Wherever you plow snow, you have to put it somewhere else,” she said, explaining that snow has to be carted away when it piles up. It’s certainly not impossible, but it is time-consuming and costly, she later told Shootin’ the Breeze.
The committee of the whole passed a motion directing Levair to look into whether or not council had upped snowplowing and removal near Adelaide Street.
The director of operations said she planned to bring the town’s snow and ice policy back to council for review this summer.
“It’s about finding a balance,” she said from her office at the town works yard. “Ultimately, it’s council who sets that balance.”
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Both plans were addressed at council’s Jan. 4 committee of the whole meeting, where council voted to accept assessment reports and construction estimates submitted by the Calgary consulting firm, Stephenson Engineering.
Council has neither awarded construction contracts, nor set aside money for either project in this year’s budget.
Stephenson’s reports to council highlight a lack of suitable office space at both sites, recommending an estimated $3.2-million overhaul to the town office at 962 St. John Ave., and a roughly $8.5-million build for a new works yard near the current yard at 1068 Kettles St.
The town office was converted from an elementary school in the 1990s and, while council chambers and some civic offices were built in the facilities’ east wing, the west wing’s classrooms, gymnasium and washrooms designed for children remain largely unchanged.
Stephenson recommends building a new parking lot where the children’s playground now stands, plus more offices and an expansion to council chambers. The firm meanwhile recommends holding on to the gym in the west wing.
Speaking at the committee of the whole meeting, Alexa Levair, who replaced Al Roth as director of operations last November, told council that Roth had kept his office in a defunct classroom for lack of office space.
The town would rebuild the playground, Levair told council.
The town’s works yard is too old and too congested to be refurbished, Stephenson concluded. The report details an acute lack of office space, plus a number of accessibility barriers. At one point, the report highlights that “Only one change room is provided (at the works yard), so it is not suitable for any female staff.”
Council has not resolved construction timelines for either project. Stephenson’s report recommends running the existing operations yard while replacement facilities are built at a town-owned site bounded by Table Mountain and McEachern streets to the north and south, and Mountain View Avenue and Allison Street to the west and east.
Stephenson factored in a 20 per cent contingency in its cost estimations for both projects.
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.
A climate change initiative is set to deliver electric vehicle chargers to Pincher Creek, the outlying municipal district and Castle Mountain Resort.
The project combines funding from the SouthGrowth Regional Initiative, a non-profit economic development organization based in Lethbridge, and Enel Green Power, which operates Pincher Creek’s Castle Ridge wind farm, according to Tristan Walker, energy project lead for the town and MD.
The town will install a public EV charger on the northeast corner of the Pincher Creek Spray Park at 1020 Robertson Ave., where batteries can be topped up at an estimated cost of between $2 and $5 per hour. The charger will fit any EV, with a special adapter required for Teslas, Walker said.
The spray park was selected for its easy accessibility and for the average length of stay at the nearby multipurpose facility, which includes the town’s swimming pool, library and Memorial Community Centre Arena. An hour’s worth of juice will fuel most EVs for between 50 and 75 kilometres.
Town hall hopes that the added boost will ease EV drivers’ “range anxiety,” especially as they travel between regional swim meets and hockey tournaments.
Two more EV chargers are destined for the MD administration building and work yard at 1037 Herron Ave. One will be installed for public use in front of the main office, with the second dedicated to the MD’s vehicle fleet, which doesn’t currently operate EVs.
“The MD is looking at bringing in electric vehicles within the next one to five years,” Walker said last week.
All four chargers will run off the province’s energy grid, drawing electricity powered by coal, natural gas, wind and solar energy.
“You’re going to propel an electric vehicle much further, using much less energy, regardless of where that energy is coming from,” Walker said, contrasting EVs’ 80 per cent fuel efficiency with the internal combustion engine’s 36 per cent. As an added benefit, EVs don’t emit greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change.
All four EV chargers are due for installation in early 2023, according to Walker.
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.
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.
Peter Van Bussel and Abigail Rigaux receive a poppy from Walker Anderson at the MHHS Remembrance Day assembly in Pincher Creek.
Spooky Town delights families every Halloween.
The event takes place at the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village in Pincher Creek and welcomes children of all ages to trick-or-treat on the museum grounds. Local businesses and non-profit groups, as well as the town and MD, are invited to participate and man the different stations.
Those adventuresome enough could also test their mettle by touring the BooBerry House and the Haunted Barn, both expertly prepared by KBPV staff.
Are you aware that there are already 20-plus unregulated tourist homes (short-term rentals or STRs) operating in the town of Pincher Creek?
Are you aware that if proposed land-use bylaw No. 1547-AO is approved by council, we could end up losing up to 83 homes and rental units for residents (five per cent of the community’s 1,665 single-detached homes could be approved as Type 2 STRs)?
These would become tourist accommodation, unavailable to residents for long-term rental unless they are willing to pay an exorbitant amount of money each month! Can our community afford this loss of homes and rental units when so many people are looking for a place to live?
It is one thing to allow residents to rent one or more rooms to lodgers (proposed Type 1 STR). It is quite another thing to allow commercial landlords to buy up residential houses and convert them into Type 2 STRs — depleting our limited rental housing supply and creating a devastating impact on available housing in our community.
Regulated STRs are thought to bring economic benefits to a community — but who benefits at the expense of whom? The town may benefit with added commercial tax revenues and licensing. Businesses that cater to tourists, such as restaurants, bars and food stores, may benefit.
But it’s the STR owners, including many who do not even live in our community, who are the real benefactors, taking revenue out of our community! This at the expense of new residents moving to our community who need places to live.
Because most STRs are located in residential areas, our neighbourhoods become fragmented. We no longer have neighbours but a constantly rotating number of strangers. Complaints about safety, traffic, trash, noise and parties become more common. Our community has much to lose if the town doesn’t regulate STRs closely.
Our community needs to ensure that each person and family wanting to reside long term in our community can find a place to live.
The Town of Pincher Creek is hosting a public hearing on Monday, Nov. 14, in council chambers at 962 St. John Ave., at 6 p.m. We urge you to attend; this is your chance to make your voice heard.
https://shootinthebreeze.ca/crowsnest-pass-council-approves-business-licence-payment-plan/Most of us are familiar with the three Rs associated with limiting our waste: reduce, reuse and recycle.
As it turns out, there’s a fourth R: renew the recycling licence.
During the Feb. 22 regular council meeting for the Town of Pincher Creek, Coun. Scott Korbett formally announced the town would not be renewing its recycling contract with KJ Cameron Service Industries. Come June 30, only empty beverage containers will be accepted at the bottle depot.
“The Town of Pincher Creek intends to continue to offer a recycling program,” the town’s official statement reads. “We are currently working with our regional partners to have a smooth transition to a new program by the end of June.”
While understanding the town is obligated to make economic decisions when it comes to contracts, Weston Whitfield, owner and manager of KJ Cameron, worries consolidating services on a regional basis might result in an inefficient service to taxpayers.
The process of gathering, transporting, then re-sorting material, Mr. Whitfield adds, might decrease the price recycling facilities are willing to pay.
“My concern is in the past, places that have done collaborations like that end up with a little bit of contamination and it can affect the resale of the product,” he says.
Although no official details have been released, the plan for future recycling appears to involve the Crowsnest/Pincher Creek Landfill Association.
Discussion recorded in the minutes of the Jan. 20, 2021, regular meeting of the landfill association includes “Recycling Update” as an agenda item.
The minutes describe proposals being sent to each of the municipalities and note that, despite no reply being received, each of the municipal representatives — Coun. Dean Ward from Crowsnest Pass, Coun. Brian McGillivray from Pincher Creek and Reeve Brian Hammond from the MD of Pincher Creek — indicated their respective councils are still considering or interested in the landfill’s recycling proposal.
Recycling was also a topic during last week’s council meetings for both the MD of Pincher Creek and Crowsnest Pass.
During the MD of Pincher Creek’s Feb. 23 council meeting, chief administrative officer Troy MacCulloch updated council on plans to move collection bins from outside the MD office to a site off Bighorn Avenue and Highway 507, near the Co-op lumberyard.
The site will cover recycling needs for residents from both the MD and town.
“This will be a site that the MD will build,” said CAO MacCulloch. “We will cost-share it with the town, and then going forward it would be operated and manned by the Crowsnest/Pincher Creek Landfill.”
Plans for the new recycling site are still tentative as the MD is working with the current landowner to develop a lease that would permit the property to be used as a transfer station for garbage and recyclables.
The garbage bins by the MD office, he added, could also be removed. This will allow for further development and easier access of the standpipe, which will remain at the location.
Meetings with Pincher Creek administration have discussed the possibility of the MD taking over the composting facility, which would be included on the site.
Crowsnest Pass council also voted Feb. 23 to direct administration to find a location for their own recycling bin.
Ease of access, along with being sheltered from the weather and from travellers’ field of vision, were identified as main priorities.
Administration was asked to present a location at the March 16 council meeting with hopes that users could begin dropping off recycling by the end of the month.
The goal is to eventually have three sites in the municipality to gather recycling. Beginning with one, said CAO Patrick Thomas, was a good place to “at least start and see what the challenges are,” especially to “see how [building] the fencing and screening goes.”
The Town of Pincher Creek’s full official statement regarding the recycling licence can be found online at http://bit.ly/PC-Recycle. More information on Pincher Creek Bottle Depot and Recycling can be found at www.facebook.com/pcbottledepot.