What is your main motivation to run?
My motivation for running another term is to continue the challenging work of applying my background and skills to make a positive change for my community. I thrive from making a difference, and this has been the case since graduating as a chemical engineer writing globally successful software, to this recent term on Council standing up for my ratepayers to fully represent with an equal voice.
Could you name two initiatives you would like to see accomplished if elected?
#1. Hire a strong CAO with leadership skills to rebuild an administration that has suffered through a dysfunctional Council, a controversial CAO, a County Hall relocation with increased commutes for employees, and not at the least, a COVID pandemic. A CAO that will have the chops to prepare Rocky View to come to the table as a nimble, capable, and collaborative regional municipal business partner, and earns the County the respect and trust of our neighbors.
#2 Improve the business planning and financial modelling capabilities of Administration. We need to be able to critically evaluate utility purchases or expansions, and new developments or ASP’s to understand if they will be financially responsible additions, or just growth for growth’s sake. We need a better understanding of servicing costs over a long time horizon. Paying the carrying costs on development-related debt from out of the tax stabilization reserve is an early warning sign. Rocky View County is in relatively good shape compared to many neighbours, but diligence is required to make sure we do not end up in that boat.
Fifteen years ago, Rocky View borrowed $80 million to build water and sewage servicing Balzac east commercial development. The debt was to be paid back in 10 years by developers using the system. However, Rocky View still owes about $80 million. What steps Rocky View should take to begin reducing its debt?
Develop a corporate business plan that yields a balanced long-term budget and capital plan. A plan that does not require constant growth above the regional-average to be sustainable. One that prepares us for when we have to catch-up maintaining ageing infrastructure from inefficient historical build-outs spread too thin across large regions of the County. Use the growth spurts to fund nice-to-have amenities that improve resident quality of life, or our business attractiveness. Not to use them as a baseline for large scale investments by the County. Unfortunately, we built it and they did not come.
Rocky View has allocated $9.6 million to extend water and wastewater services to Balzac West without implementing a recovery mechanism from benefiting developers. What should the County do about this?
I would convince my Colleagues that we need to direct Administration to put together proper business cases to fully understand the utility service situation on the east side of Rocky View, the growth assumptions we are making (or have made), and the impact of new or amended ASP’s on the long-term costs of the services we are providing. This has to include risk-based planning assumptions that have to tie into the harsh reality of regional economic growth projections, and not rely on unpredictable parasitic or opportunistic development.
With respect to development west of the QEII in the new Joint Planning Area, the long-term costs of servicing using that pipeline needs a hard look. It could very well turn out that that we just cap it and abandon it as a sunk cost to Rocky View. With missing long-term processing capacity at the water source and sewage destination, it may turn out it will continually cost us from the moment it is filled. If not directly, then in opportunity cost for other potential east-side commercial development that could be starved for servicing.
Due to its location next to Calgary, Rocky View’s number one issue is development. How should the County go about managing it?
A reboot of the County’s business development thinking to embrace new business realities. Less dart-board and more coordinated co-location of symbiotic business communities to build more profitable business parks and ASP's.
It is not a simple matter, and requires a skilled Administration and a fiscally responsible Council to pull off successfully.
Rocky View has set a goal to have at least 35 per cent of non-residential development and 65 per cent residential. tax base should be non-residential. In 2016, the County’s tax base was 27 per cent non-residential. Should the County strive to achieve the 35-65 per cent goal? If yes, how?
Yes. A purely residential tax base is not sustainable with the service levels typically demanded by those residents.
We accomplish this by not thinking we want to mix residential with commercial/industrial in the same proportion with every ASP - the residential / business assessment mix can be achieved with distinct ASP's that sum across the County to our targeted overall residential / business tax assessment splits.
Supporting Hamlet growth, high quality country residential and cluster developments in logical locations with efficient servicing and abiding by County policy. Providing attractive building-form alternatives from the urban-density centres.
Build on our natural competitive advantages for logistics, and other space-hungry business types. Respect and use existing ASPs that afford commercial industrial businesses with good highway access, without building outside of ASPs and without lining Provincial Highways with a narrow strip of retail / commercial / industrial buildings.
Giving unique choices to improve the attractiveness of the whole region for new investment brought in by relocating and expanding business from outside the region / province.
In 2017, changes to provincial legislation made it possible for Alberta municipalities to apply soft infrastructure development levies to fund facilities such as municipal buildings, fire halls, police stations, recreation centres and libraries. Should Rocky View implement such levies?
Yes. We are overdue as ability to assess this off-site levy was approved by the Province in 2018.
Although not top of mind for this past Council, my understanding is that Administration has been working on this. Approval of the new RVC Recreation Master Plan this past spring was the last pre-requisite required for Administration to project growth-related recreation facility capital costs. With all the pieces in place for EMS, Police, Recreation, and Library facility build-out schedules – off-site levy structures and formulas can now be developed.
A Colliers International commercial real estate broker interviewed by CBC last March said a company relocating to Rocky View from Calgary could save up to 18 per cent because of lower land values, lower taxes, lower levies, and lower development standards. If this is verified, should Rocky View keep the status quo?
This report was from a real-estate perspective. If a business is seeking to purchase raw property or design-builds then there could be savings on the purchase price. Perhaps it is baked into lower rent costs if the building is relatively new. However, the costs of the commercial business taxes are directly related to ongoing County servicing costs.
If we provide what is essentially a loss-leader on development, that saddles the businesses that then move in with future rising tax costs. This is already a reality as long-term off-site and utility levy shortfalls are currently subsidized with general tax reserve dollars in RVC. This then is really a false economy. Great for developers, but not so good for the County as a whole down the road. Ultimately not sustainable.
Are you accepting contributions from developers?
Not to my knowledge.
Rocky View has ended publishing municipal advertisement in the local newspaper, the Rocky View Weekly. The move saves the County $60,000 a year. Do you agree with that decision?
I did not support the motion to abandon the municipal advertising. Curiously I see some RVC advertising lately in the paper, just not development related notices from RVC. I also see Ads from candidates who voted in favour of abandoning public notices by RV in the local newspaper.
During the current term, council has invested energy, time and taxpayer money in internal strife. What are your views about the conflict’s causes/implications?
From my experience being on the short end of the stick in the current council, I believe there should be stronger leadership from both the Reeve and the CAO that is focused on finding ways for people with what can be widely differing views to work together smoothly.
This requires everyone to respect and actively listen to each others’ opinions. That was missing on the current council. There may be a role for some training for the new council to ensure that it has better skills in this area. Trust and respect are not an automatic given - but are earned through one’s actions.
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