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Tag: Vicki Kubik

Landscape view of gravel road and mountain with a planned cell tower location shown

Crowsnest Pass council takes Rogers to task over cell tower site

Crownsnest Pass council is pointedly withholding support for Rogers Communications’ bid to put a cellular tower in Coleman, castigating the telecom giant for allegedly dismissing concerns from the owner of an area RV park who says the tower would obstruct tenants’ mountain views.

A British Columbia land use planning firm notified the municipality in late February of Rogers’ intent to build a 61-metre cell tower near the Crowsnest River RV Park in order to boost wireless reception.

From its office in Vancouver, Cypress Land Services meanwhile notified six people at Sentinel Road addresses, including RV park owner Terry Kenney. Rogers also advertised the installation site in a local newspaper — all part of a public consultation process required by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, a collection of federal departments and agencies with exclusive jurisdiction over the licensing of telecommunications sites, including the proposed tower. 

 

 

Kenney and another community resident promptly told CLS they wanted Rogers to put the tower somewhere else in the vicinity — anywhere other than the proposed location in Sentinel Industrial Park, nearly half a kilometre south of Highway 3. 

“It would fall within our view of the mountains. And in all our conversations, [CLS] led me to believe we’d certainly enter into meaningful talks,” Kenney told Shootin’ the Breeze Friday. CLS staffer Kristina Bell even emailed Kenney drawings of two alternate locations, Kenney said. 

But Kenney said CLS and Rogers “started playing hardball with me” when the consultation period lapsed in early April. At that point, Kenney said neither company appeared willing to seriously consider an alternate tower site.  

 

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“While some views to the north may be impacted, the majority of views from this commercial industrial area are to the west and south and will not be impacted by the placement of the tower,” Bell wrote in a May 23 email to municipal administration. 

Acting on Rogers’ behalf, CLS asked council for “a letter of concurrence” validating Rogers’ consultation process. Bell also supplied a sample resolution acknowledging Rogers had met its due diligence and stating that the municipality agreed with the site location. 

Council was in no mood to concur when the matter came up at chambers June 6. 

Mayor Blair Painter said he doubted Rogers’ sincerity. The company had gone along with an obligatory consultation process that ignored residents’ stated opposition, he went on, highlighting that ISED’s jurisdiction meant council never really had a say, anyway. 

 

 

Painter and several councillors said they’d welcome the cell tower if Rogers lined up a better site in the Sentinel area.  

“I don’t give a crap where it goes. It just shouldn’t be there,” Coun. Lisa Sygutek said, calling Rogers’ handling of Kenney’s concerns “insulting” and “disgusting.” 

“I agree with all these concerns, but they don’t give a squat,” Coun. Dean Ward said. 

Council then unanimously passed Coun. Vicki Kubik’s resolution to send Rogers “a letter of non-concurrence,” along with a request for information about human health and wildlife impacts. The letter will also state council’s concerns to protect the Pass’s natural beauty, per a friendly amendment by Mayor Painter. 

Rogers did not immediately respond to the Breeze’s request for comment on Friday.

 

Man's hands – one writing with a pen and the other on a calculator

Pass council approves extra taxes, squares away half of added revenue

The Municipality of Crowsnest Pass is on track to take in over $1 million more in property taxes than was laid out in this year’s budget.

Budget 2023 projected roughly $10.2 million in municipal taxes when it was passed by council last December.

Council on April 4 unanimously approved a property tax rate bylaw that brings in roughly an extra $1.1 million, for an approximate total of $11.3 million in municipal taxes. The bylaw also authorizes the municipality to collect provincial taxes for education, as well as extra municipal taxes for seniors housing.

The property tax bump comes on the heels of a roughly 12 per cent annual rise in assessed property values across the Pass. Property assessments, finalized in February, added about $130 million to the Pass’s total tax base, according to an executive summary of the bylaw attached to council’s agenda. 

 

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What’s the difference? And how does it hit home? 

Budget 2023 initially projected a two per cent property tax increase in order to maintain service levels and balance the budget, according to a summary of the bylaw. The extra $1.1 million in property taxes represents a roughly 11 per cent increase over that projection. 

The impact on individual taxpayers will depend on this year’s mill rates, so-called because they set municipal tax levies per $1,000 in assessed property value, and how much a given property rose or fell in assessed value, according to chief administrative officer Patrick Thomas. 

The Pass’s residential mill rate fell from around 10.5 to around 7.5. At the same time, just over 80 per cent of properties either retained their assessed values or saw those values climb by up to 15 per cent. 

Municipal taxes on a home valued at $300,000 last year would rise nearly $335 in 2023 if that home’s assessment came in 15 per cent higher year-over-year. Taxes for the same home would drop by around $120 if its assessed value held at $300,000.   

Slightly over six per cent of Pass properties went down in assessed value, Thomas explained.

 

 

How will council spend the extra dough? 

Council unanimously voted to bank half of the extra tax revenue and spread the other half across a short list of new initiatives: $250,000 for a new trails master plan proposed by Coun. Lisa Sygutek; $64,000 for capital upgrades to Crowsnest Community Library; $70,000 for environmental monitoring projects at two area landfills, both recommended by administration; a $22,000 grant for Crowsnest CanDo — the non-profit organization lobbying to revive the Pass’s Roxy Theatre — tabled by Coun. Dean Ward; $200,000 for various road repair initiatives tabled by Couns. Ward and Doreen Glavin; and $30,000 for new beautification projects, following a motion by Sygutek. 

Sygutek said the Pass needs a new trails master plan to prepare for the massive influx in regional tourism backed by Travel Alberta last fall.

“The tourist stuff is coming, whether we want it to or not,” and staking municipal funds would boost the Pass’s chances of landing supplementary grants from the federal and provincial governments, she added.

Ward noted that the Pass and surrounding areas were promoted as tourist destinations at the Tourism Industry Association of Alberta’s convention in January.

Painter said the master plan initiative was “critical” to the Pass’s tourist economy. 

“I wish it had been done last year,” he said.

 

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What’s driving municipal taxes? 

The higher tax burden partly reflects a steep climb in property values since the “buying frenzy” that hit the Pass’s real estate market at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Christopher Snelgrove of Benchmark Assessment Consultants, the Lethbridge firm that handles the Pass’s property value assessments.

“I saw roughly twice as many [real estate] sales compared to pre-Covid years,” Snelgrove continued, noting that the Pass’s natural beauty and slower pace of life strongly appeal to urban professionals.  

Inflationary pressure on the Pass’s real estate market added roughly $92.5 million in overall assessed property value, according to council documents. Real estate development — new builds, renovations and other improvements — meanwhile added roughly $38.5 million. 

There are no physical barriers to real estate speculation in the Pass (or anywhere, for that matter). Not so for local development, which is sharply constrained by the region’s mountainous topography. 

The Pass will run out of room to grow unless it were to annex land from neighbouring municipalities, Snelgrove explained.

 

 

A reach too far? 

Council was rather exacting in its budget deliberations last fall, when it earmarked about $575,000 for 18 out of 42 proposals for new initiatives at a combined ask of nearly $20 million. 

Council passed the extra tax increase after a lengthy discussion at chambers on March 28, when the property tax rate bylaw came up for first reading. 

“While it looks like a bit of windfall for Crowsnest Pass, it definitely isn’t when you look at the improvements we’re looking at in the near future,” Coun. Vicki Kubik said on April 4. 

Councillors joined the mayor and chief administrative officer Patrick Thomas in pointing out that the province has steadily “downloaded” costs onto small municipalities since 2021. Many of these costs were budgeted for in December, but Kubik and Painter stressed that more are still to come, especially the Pass’s bill for policing costs.

Profile of Trevor Hay, a man with short grey hair, wearing a black jacket, speaks into a microphone while addressing Crowsnest Pass council.

Crowsnest Pass to seek legal advice on Blairmore subdivision

The Municipality of Crowsnest Pass is seeking legal advice after a resident asked to build a road through his proposed subdivision before putting up a security deposit.

Trevor Hay, who hopes to build homes for his family atop Blairmore’s Greenwood Heights, says the project has been held up since 2010 because he can’t afford the deposit and construction costs at the same time.

“There’s a very real human component that’s significant in order to completely understand this situation,” Hay told council Jan. 13. He’d hoped to build a home for himself and his wife and to give lots to their three adult children.

“This should’ve been one of the most exciting and fulfilling times of our lives,” he said. “Instead, it’s been like a recurring nightmare.”

 

Aerial view of the Cowley Lions Campground on the Castle River in southwestern Alberta

 

Council’s subdivision policy (2006-02) requires that developers put up the full estimated costs to build civic amenities through a subdivision — including public roads — before breaking ground. Security deposits keep municipalities off the hook should these amenities fail in the two years after construction, Patrick Thomas, Crownest Pass’s chief administrative officer, explained at council’s regular meeting Feb. 7. 

Hay wants to put down a 25 per cent security deposit after the municipality signs off on the road through Greenwood Heights. The municipality would close the road to the public and block the subdivision if the road were to fail inspection. 

“It would stay a private road through (an undivided) private property,” Thomas said, adding that Hay’s 25 per cent would safeguard the municipality’s interests. 

 

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Council unanimously approved a two-year extension for Hay’s project, but set aside his request for a smaller security deposit. 

“My biggest concern is that this will set a precedent moving forward,” Mayor Blair Painter said. 

Coun. Dean Ward drew on the example of a Blairmore development that went bust 15 years ago, which council had to buy back at taxpayers’ expense. 

“I’m not talking about (Hay’s) development, specifically. But, it’s not our job to just look after the safety of the municipality. It’s also to look after the safety of all our residents,” Ward said, cautioning that hilltop construction can put underlying homes at risk of flooding. 

 

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“How many times do you hear about unintended consequences?” Ward asked, echoing Painter’s concerns about setting a potentially dangerous precedent.

Speaking to the public perception that recent councils have been overly cautious, Coun. Vicki Kubik said, “If we sit here tonight with a bit of trepidation, it’s for a good reason.” 

Coun. Lisa Sygutek then tabled a motion calling for legal advice from the municipality’s legal team. 

“Are we willing to go down this road?” she asked. “Because once we’ve opened up this box, every developer is going to come to us asking for the same thing.” 

 

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Council unanimously passed Sygetuk’s motion. 

Hay defended his position when council opened the floor, stressing that he was “very sensitive to the issue of flooding.” 

Three engineering surveys have shown that a properly built road would improve drainage atop Greenwood Heights as much as 85 per cent, he said. 

Mayor Painter thanked Hay for his input and said council would revisit the issue of his security deposit at a later date.

 

 

 

 

Firefighter gear hanging on fire hall wall

Hillcrest fire station to remain open

Historic buildings play an important role in the cultural identity of a community. As buildings age and their initial uses get transferred to modern facilities, however, rising maintenance costs can bring up questions about how much maintaining cultural identity is worth.

Such was the conversation about Hillcrest’s Fire Station 4 during Crowsnest Pass council’s Oct. 18 regular meeting. Administration brought the topic forward with the recommendation that council close the firehall due to the facility not meeting current fire protection standards, specifically in equipment requirements and staffing levels.

Only two volunteers man the station. One works a mining shift schedule and the other is in their late 70s and has reduced work function. The Fire Underwriters Survey, a fire insurance statistical group, states the minimum staff level for a station to be recognized is 10 personnel.

On top of requiring considerable upkeep and operating costs, the aging hall also is unable to house a front-line fire engine. Currently, the only firefighting truck is a 2001 Ford Type 6 brush/wildland truck that is past its end of life.

Emergency services calls to Hillcrest are serviced from Station 3 in Bellevue. Closing the Hillcrest station would not affect Hillcrest’s emergency or fire protection.

Closing the hall, said CAO Patrick Thomas, would allow the municipality to utilize the building and the respective funds in a more meaningful way, but would in no way be meant as a slight against the legacy of the facility.

“First and foremost, no one wants to go and put forth that there is not an immense appreciation for the years of service that have come out of that hall,” he said.

“That is not the intent, to try and put any slight against that. This is more looking at it from a business sense. It’s essentially just running as a hall on paper and nothing more.”

Though recognizing the financial commitment to the hall did not result in any additional advantages to the municipality’s fire response, Coun. Lisa Sygutek said keeping the hall open would carry a deeper meaning than monetary value could communicate.

“Sometimes there’s things you just do because it’s the right thing to do,” she said.

“It shouldn’t have a cost price attached to it. This is a community that has nothing left in it — it has the Hillcrest Fish and Game, it’s got the Miners Club, and it’s got a facility that matters to them. It matters to them for their perceived safety.”

“Even if we don’t feel that it matters to their safety, for them, it matters for their safety,” Sygtuek continued.

“There’s right things to do and wrong things to do, in my opinion, and in this situation we are removing so many things from the community in such a short period of time, I’m just not willing to do this one.”

Coun. Vicki Kubik agreed.

“As it is, I get the financial part of it, but I also understand the connection that people have that gives them that sense of community, and a fire hall can be an important part of that,” she said.

“The general consensus when I meet with the constituents in that area is they would be really offended to have the firehall closed. They perceive it to be something that speaks to their safety.”

“I wonder if they just don’t even know that there’s nothing in that hall that would service them,” Kubik added.

“There is a lot of concern expressed about the railroad tracks and how long it would take for them to receive service if they needed it. Just on principle alone, given what the constituents in that area have told me, I can’t in good conscience vote in favour of closing the Hillcrest firehall either.”

Although still reliant on Bellevue, Coun. Doreen Glavin said, previous experience showed a station in Hillcrest could make a difference when a life was on the line.

“I know in one instance they didn’t do that [wait for help from Bellevue] and they went and helped with a heart attack patient. And whether it be medical or even a vehicle accident, I would feel better with having it closed if the personnel that live in that community can respond without having to go to the fire station first before they acted on whatever the emergency situation would be,” she said.

“I’m really concerned, we see it all the time with CP Rail, [where] that train is stuck on the tracks.”

Sentiments aside, however, the fact remained: the station did not have enough staff or the right equipment to provide an acceptable level of emergency service.

“Maybe what administration needs to do is to put it out to the public and say, ‘Hey look, these are the options: if we can’t get volunteers from this community to be members of the fire department, we are going to be forced to close this hall,’ ” said Mayor Blair Painter. “Lay it out in black and white and see if anybody steps forward.”

Apart from volunteers, the major issue was lack of equipment, said Coun. Dave Filipuzzi.

“Even if you recruited six people in the Hillcrest area — what are they going to do? There’s not going to be no equipment there,” he said. “You’re still going to have to go to either Bellevue or Blairmore.”

“I mean you’re going to a hall that’s got nothing in it. Even if you got 20 people from Hillcrest, it’s still got no value,” Filipuzzi continued.

“Other than you know what, the value that it’s got, is that ‘Hey we still got the Hillcrest firehall. Even though it’s falling down around us, we’ve got a nice rock outside and we got a nice thing outside and this looks great.’ But the value of it — think of the value of it. Does it have value to the community? No, it don’t.”

Closing Station 4, he said, would mean the municipality could repurpose it to fulfil another need. “It’s not like we’re just going to go there and plow it over,” he said.

Keeping the hall open, added Mayor Painter, would mean ignoring the facts of the issue and the logical course of action for the municipality to take as a whole.

“You’re not thinking with your head, you’re thinking with your heart. And that’s not always in the best interest of the community,” he said.

Council eventually voted not to close Station 4.

At the request of Coun. Sygutek, a recorded vote was taken. Mayor Painter and Couns. Filipuzzi and Girhiny voted in favour of closing the hall, while Couns. Sygutek, Kubik, Glavin and Ward opposed its closure.

Kids trick or treating in lion costumes – one roaring and one smiling on the front page of Shootin' the Breeze. Alberta news from Pincher Creek area and Crowsnest Pass.

Nov. 2, 2022

Lion’s share of fun

Ames and Miles were spotted enjoying Spooky Town and the great weather Saturday at Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village in Pincher Creek.