With a two year deadline from the provincial government looming over its head, Ponoka County is on a push to get one of two collaboration agreements in place before the fall election.
The county, along with the counties of Leduc, Wetaskiwin and Camrose are working on developing a framework agreement based on the modernization changes made to the Municipal Government Act (MGA).
The Inter-municipal Collaboration Framework (ICF) and Inter-municipal Development Plan (IDP) agreements were mandated during the second round of MGA changes announced late last year. It’s expected the legislation will become law by July, starting the clock on the two-year deadline, and putting the changes in place in time for the province-wide municipal election on Oct. 23.
Elizabeth Armitage, owner of Calgary-based Vicinia Planning & Engagement Inc., was contracted by the municipalities to come up with the ICF and was at Ponoka County’s council meeting on May 9 to explain what has been happening and the process to come over the next few months.
“We’ve done at lot of IDPs (between counties and towns) and for rural-to-rural it is definitely different,” Armitage told council, adding IDPs are significantly more complex.
“So, we’ve come up with a paired down version with a one mile notification area on municipal boundaries. What that means is if there is an application within that area, it would be circulated to residents and administration in the other county.”
It was noted counties have existed side-by-side for generations without many issues. However, Reeve Paul McLauchlin stated troubles are cropping up more often and an agreement certainly makes sense.
“It does happen, as with the gun range in Wetaskiwin as well as on recreation, most recently with Lacombe County getting tagged with an amount by the City of Lacombe and trying to get out of paying it. So, we can’t continue to assume things will work out,” he said.
Armitage stated the minimal referral area along with some basic statements regarding potential for co-operation on transportation, environmental, recreation and other areas is to keep the agreement as simple as possible.
“We are still waiting on just what the regulations will be in the legislation and anticipate those to be ready in the next while. I believe though, the ICF has what the legislation identifies as necessary,” she said.
“A lot of items are done independently by counties. So, for a rural-to-rural collaboration, what is needed are policies to address dispute resolution and conduct due diligence on issues that may be worked on together if possible. It’s about ensuring those boxes are checked off and addressed.”
CAO Charlie Cutforth added all of his counterparts felt a lack of regulation can breed disagreements and changes in personnel can also lead to that. However, it was also felt the fewer regulations would be better in generating opportunities to work together with their neighbouring municipalities.
Armitage explained the next step will be to develop the document once the regulations have been approved and get it back before council prior to the election.
“You are ahead of the game on this and it certainly is easier to do than an IDP with the towns. We are just waiting now for the province to finish the regulations,” she said.