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Tag: Wayne Oliver

Arm of person passing a fast-food drink from a drive-thru window and hand of person in vehicle accepting it.

Town council to focus on the bigger picture

Pincher Creek town council has put the brakes on plans to include drive-thrus in its C4 transitional zoning designation.

In a vote of 6-1, with Coun. Sahra Nodge the lone dissenter, council defeated the second of three readings of an amendment that would have allowed businesses, like restaurants and financial institutions, to potentially have drive-thrus in the downtown core.

“The one thing, in my view, that makes it slightly incompatible, is you’re transitioning from residential to commercial and that whole area of transition has public sidewalks right in front of it,” said Coun. Wayne Oliver, referring to the Subway restaurant on Main Street, which had been hoping to open its existing drive-thru window.

“Having a drive-thru that has to cross (two) public sidewalks is not an ideal design,” he said. “And that’s a high-traffic area with a swimming pool and a skating rink.”

There was also concern across the board that an alleyway behind the restaurant might be impacted by a drive-thru lane.

While there’d been no direct dialogue with the owner of the Subway on the access route, the town’s CAO assured council that vehicles wouldn’t be able to line up in the alley. 

“Private development isn’t able to use back alleys. Everything has to be done on their site,” confirmed Angie Lucas, when asked by Coun. David Green where the vehicles would enter the drive-thru.

Oliver, however, followed up on an earlier comment from Mayor Don Anderberg that any amendment changes need to be considered for all the businesses that might be affected, not just one.

 

Table setting of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

New direction for future development? 

While in favour of seeing the amendment go through second reading, Nodge also accepted there might be a shift in what the community wants from its downtown, which includes Kettles Street, where a number of lots fall under the “transitional” designation.

The zoning “was primarily along the Kettles Street piece. It’s more than just Main Street,” she said. “It was meant to facilitate more commercial development on Kettles and also on the west end of Main Street, west of the Hewetson intersection, on that block, on both sides.”

But have the wants and needs of the community changed?

“I don’t think where our community is moving now is foreseeing Kettles as a commercial core, as it once did, and I think there’s a shift in how the downtown is viewed in terms of growth possibility and the desirability,” Nodge added.

Anderberg, meanwhile, would like to see any future discussion on land use include the stretch of Main Street west of Hewetson.

“The (original) intent was to intensify that section for commercial development. It hasn’t worked too well,” he said.

Anderberg hopes an updated land use bylaw, with new provisions for C4, will address that.

“I think the plan (for the C4 district) was put in place … 1998, 1990, so it’s been 25 years. It’s out of date,” said the mayor.

The first draft of the new land use bylaw could come across the council table as early as next month.

Yellow snow plow on icy road

Pincher Creek drafting new snow-removal policy

Any talk of snow during the summer is typically considered blasphemous, though in a place like Pincher Creek the risk of flurries is never zero.

“I’ve seen snow in every month in this place,” Mayor Don Anderberg said with a chuckle during Pincher Creek council’s July 5 committee of the whole meeting.

The topic of the dreaded white stuff stemmed from a request from administration for council members to brainstorm what principles and values should guide the town’s snow-removal policy, which is due for an overhaul.

“We’ve looked at our existing policy and think that this is great time, rather than tweaking it, to just start fresh and set what are the expectations,” said director of operations Alexa Levair.

“That gives us a better idea of what council is looking for when we’re coming back and presenting some policy options moving forward.”

In general, administration was looking for what the town’s priorities should be regarding areas plowed, if snow removal should emphasize residents’ ability to drive versus walk, and what target should be set for costs.

Since snow removal has a multitude of options the town could pursue, community feedback would be key, Levair added.

“Snow removal is one of the most talked-about issues amongst the community and residents. We are recommending that council direct us to draft a public engagement strategy so we can gather some feedback that we can then provide back to council saying this is what we heard back from the community,” she said.

 

 

Coun. Sahra Nodge said she wanted to make sure public engagement included Pincher Creek’s schools due to the specific concerns of busing and students walking to school.

“I’m wanting to make sure there’s safe travel before school hours,” she said. “There’s a lot more encouragement for kids walking to school, so it’s important to ensure there are safe crosswalks in the school areas [and] that those crosswalks aren’t being obstructed by snow piles.”

Accessibility was something Coun. Wayne Oliver said the policy should consider, such as clearing windrows in front of driveways or making sure the parking lot at town office is clear. Adaptability, he added, was something the policy needed to consider too.

“We all know in southern Alberta it could look different one year to the next, one month to the next,” Coun. Oliver said.

“Two inches of snow but a 60-kilometre wind from the east is going to leave us with something that is different than two inches of snow with a 60-kilometre wind from the west, so whatever we design in our policy certainly has to have adaptability baked into it,” he said. “Here’s the budget challenge, because we never know year to year what kind of snow we’re going to get.”

Mayor Anderberg suggested creating a municipal reserve for snow removal could offer stability between years with little snowfall and those with a lot. Revisiting enforcement for clearing sidewalks, he continued, was also something he wanted council to consider.

“I get a lot of good feedback about how the town does their work as far as snow removal on the streets,” the mayor said. “The one piece of negative feedback I get a lot is private sidewalks, commercial space — how that snow is handled or not handled — which we used to enforce fairly heavily at one time. It doesn’t seem we enforce heavily now.”

Administration will take the next few weeks to consider council’s discussion and draft a new snow-removal policy, which will be reviewed by council at the next committee of the whole meeting, scheduled for Aug 2.

The next regular council meeting will be held Monday, July 24, 6 p.m. in council chambers.

Small model of house on map with pencil colouring a lot in green

Pincher Creek council to host housing developer

The Town of Pincher Creek will invite representatives from a company that manages small-town housing projects to council’s next community housing committee meeting.

Council unanimously voted to extend the invitation following a motion by Coun. Sahra Nodge, April 11.

Nodge, who sits on the housing committee with Couns. Gary Cleland and Wayne Oliver, had taken in a project pitch by AND Villages at a recent convention of AlbertaSouthwest, a regional economic development alliance of 15 area municipalities, including the town and neighbouring MD and Crowsnest Pass.

AND hopes to partner with 12 municipalities on an overarching project to put up manufactured homes in each participating community. The homes would be installed in identical 12-unit blocks. 

The company’s pitch calls on municipalities to sign over one-acre land parcels serviced by underground utilities, while AND would manage the project. The company wants to hear from interested partners by the end of the month, Nodge said. 

 

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Council’s resolution directs staff to invite AND to give a 20-minute presentation, likely via Zoom, when the housing committee meets April 27. It doesn’t amount to a commitment of any kind. 

“I think we should at least listen to their presentation,” Mayor Don Anderberg said, drawing murmurs of agreement from councillors. 

Chief administrative officer Angie Lucas meanwhile advised that AND’s pitch leaves “a lot of unanswered questions” for the town’s administration. Serviced land parcels might be hard to come by, and any land used for housing development would have to be properly zoned, she noted. 

There were 70 units on Pincher Creek’s rental market as of 2017, down from 73 the year before, according to a 2018 housing-needs assessment by the Alberta Rural Development Network. 

Most homes in the town of Pincher Creek and village of Cowley were 38 years or older, while the majority of homes in the MD were 28 and older, the assessment found. 

 

Wayne Oliver, man with short grey hair and glasses wearing a blue vest, points to a Riplinger project map and speaks to Rick and Blanche Lemire.

Town councillor under fire over TransAlta info session

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.

 

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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.

 

Pig roast at wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

 

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Group of people in business suits at the base of a large hurdle

Borrowing bylaw for curling rink passes first hurdle

Pincher Creek town council narrowly approved first reading of a $4-million borrowing bylaw to pay for a new curling rink at the Community Recreation Centre at 948 Hyde St. Council then unanimously voted to expand the project in hopes of qualifying for a federal Green and Inclusive Community Buildings grant for up to 60 per cent of the build. 

A second grant could deliver up to $1 million in construction costs, while council has already set aside $1.25 million in its 2023 capital budget.

Council greenlit the new curling rink through a contentious 4-3 split Feb. 13, with councillors voting along the same lines when the borrowing bylaw was put to the test Feb. 27. 

 

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Coun. Mark Barber tabled the borrowing bylaw at chambers, stressing that grant funding and a hoped-for contribution by the MD of Pincher Creek would offset the rink’s $4-million price tag.

Both councils discussed a potential contribution by the MD at a closed meeting last month, but MD council hasn’t decided anything, Reeve Rick Lemire told Shootin’ the Breeze last Thursday. 

“We’re keeping our options open at this point,” he said. 

Mayor Don Anderberg and Couns. Gary Cleland and Wayne Oliver supported Barber’s motion, with Couns. David Green, Sahra Nodge and Brian Wright voting against. 

 

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Barber and Anderberg cited the town and MD’s joint master recreation plan, which ranked a new curling rink as a third-tier priority in March 2021, based on a survey of around 630 residents. 

The curling club and its estimated 150 members hope to donate $200,000 toward the project, plus an ice plant that Barber said was worth $500,000. 

Anderberg said council has funded new walking trails and has started to address upgrades to the Memorial Community Centre arena at 867 Main St., which survey respondents listed as first- and second-tier priorities.

The mayor’s comment drew jeers from residents in attendance, to which Anderberg replied, “I believe the survey was accurate and that it was done for a purpose.” 

 

 

“I would say we’re aggressively pursuing grant money, and all indications are that there would not be a need to borrow the entire [$4 million] amount,” Coun. Oliver said. 

Coun. Nodge was the first to speak against the motion, reminding council that the project remains largely unfunded, and warning that residents might have to support a heavy debt load through higher taxes. 

Nodge also highlighted the town’s 2022 master infrastructure report by the engineering firm ISL, a planning document that recommends roughly $13 million worth of sidewalk, storm sewer and other upgrades as part of a 10-year capital plan. 

Acknowledging strong support for the curling rink among some portions of the community, Nodge insisted that council hasn’t hadn’t done its homework ahead of the project. 

 

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“If this goes ahead, which it probably will, and somebody asks, ‘What are the implications for this on taxpayers for the Town of Pincher Creek?’ I don’t have an answer other than my own speculation, and that worries me.” 

Noting the town’s acute, chronic housing crunch, Coun. Green reminded council that the community and the municipality have limited resources to bear across a host of civic projects. 

“Consequently, a plan for priority spending should be developed in conjunction with the current council’s strategic priorities from 2022 through 2026, which will help eliminate any reactive or misaligned development decisions,” Green said. 

Council then unanimously voted to add a bouldering wall and an exhibition space to the Community Recreation Centre. The additions strengthen the town’s chances of receiving the GIBC grant by making the facility more accessible, according to the grant’s funding criteria. 

 

 

The grant requires a carbon net-zero build, which would add about 30 per cent to projected construction costs, according to Tristan Walker, municipal energy project lead for the town and MD. 

Walker said the additions would ultimately save money because the grant would cover up to 60 per cent of total construction costs — if council receives the grant. 

The recreation centre currently runs year-round, and project supporters say the new amenities would offer a more robust selection of activities.

The borrowing bylaw must be put to a public hearing and two more readings at chambers, according to the Municipal Government Act. 

If passed, opponents would have 30 days to challenge the borrowing bylaw, according to finance director Wendy Catonio.

 

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Pincher Creek town councillors and administration sit at chambers table and one is on-screen, attending virtually. Four have hands raised, voting in favour of new curling rink plan.

Pincher Creek to build new curling rink, pending borrowing bylaw

The motion, tabled by Coun. Mark Barber, triggered a lengthy deliberation at chambers Monday, drawing input from all six councillors and Mayor Don Anderberg as they weighed the project against the town’s acute, chronic housing shortage, the potential tax increase to pay for the build, and the state of the existing facilities at the CRC. 

Council several times acknowledged the long-running contributions by the local curling club, which has long operated the current curling rink at 837 Main Street at its own expense. 

Council set aside $1.25 million of the estimated $4 million build in its 2023 capital budget. The remaining $2.75 million will be funded by a long-term loan, pending council’s upcoming vote on a borrowing bylaw, which will be the subject of a public hearing. 

Speaking in favour of Barber’s motion, Mayor Anderberg said that, in a worst-case scenario, council could pay for the project with a three per cent municipal tax increase. Council will apply for a federal grant that would cover up to 60 per cent of construction costs, provided the build goes ahead on a “net-zero” carbon footing, he told the public audience. 

 

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Coun. Gary Clelland cast the vote as an “11th-hour” decision that would determine the curling club’s future.

“This is the time for us to take a positive step forward in our community, and say, ‘We want hundreds of people involved in this (curling) centre that for 100 years paid their way, have been leaders in the community … paid taxes in the community for 100 years, and still do today,” he said.  

Coun. Sahra Nodge objected that the long-term borrowing costs and subsequent maintenance of the rink would overly burden taxpayers, adding that the CRC’s gym and bowling alley are approaching their end of life.

“My role on council is to make sure that the monies that are spent by the town are done so responsibly, and with the due diligence and transparency that our community expects,” she said. 

Echoing Nodge, Coun. Brian Wright asked council, “How do we not bring a tax increase in order to get this to move forward?” 

 

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Anderberg noted that residents surveyed in Pincher Creek’s March 2021 master recreation plan identified an upgrade to the curling rink as a top priority for indoor recreation.

“If our community tells us that a new curling facility is high on their list of priorities, I’ll follow their direction,” he said. 

Coun. David Green said housing solutions should take priority over the proposed curling rink. 

The town’s population has marginally shrunk in the past 15 years. Its housing vacancy rate was less than 1.5 per cent in 2017, when most of the town’s and neighbouring village of Cowley’s housing stock was close to 40 years old, according to a 2018 housing-needs assessment commissioned by council. 

“The lack of adequate and affordable housing for low-income families is a barrier to the economic growth and stability of (Pincher Creek) communities,” the assessment found.

 

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Coun. Wayne Oliver, who attended the meeting remotely due to illness, said he trusted Anderberg’s business savvy. 

“Yes, housing is extremely important. But, I think we could work parallel on housing while building a new curling rink facility,” Oliver said. 

Barber’s motion passed 4-3 after Anderberg called the question, with Couns. Barber, Clelland and Oliver in favour, and Couns. Nodge, Green and Wright against. 

Council then unanimously passed Barber’s motions to apply for the federal grant and to tack $2.75 million onto 2023’s operating budget. 

Council must now decide whether to authorize a $4-million loan through a borrowing bylaw. The loan would  cover construction costs not already budgeted for if council’s grant application fails, but Anderberg said the town probably wouldn’t spend the full amount.

 

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

 

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Dark-haired woman in white shirt leans against a dark brown podium and speaks into a microphone while two men listen with interest from a table to the side of her

Short-term rental bylaw amendment deferred

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.

 

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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
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
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
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.’ ”

 

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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.

 

 

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