MD council schedules second public hearing for proposed dome campground

Despite the summer camping season coming to a close, council for the MD of Pincher Creek has been busy discussing meeting items that will affect future camping opportunities in the district.

During the Sept. 13 regular meeting, council approved third reading for Bylaw 1338, which rezones 7.9 acres of property beside the Waterton Reservoir from agriculture to rural recreation 1. The applicant initially submitted a proposal in 2021 for a 30-acre campground, which was denied by the council of the day.

The rezoning allows for the creation of a 10-site campground, which will now go before the developing commission for permitting.

First reading was also passed for a proposed silo campground, Bylaw 1340. The bylaw deals with a portion of property outside Twin Butte to facilitate the development of three grain bins with renovated interiors for guests to stay in.

First reading was originally scheduled back in August but was deferred to discuss with the applicant if they would be willing to rezone a smaller portion of the property and a different zoning than rural recreation 1.

The applicant agreed to switch the proposed rezoning to rural recreation 2, which covers the development of single detached residences or similar roofed structures, thereby dictating aspects of the silos being placed, such as numbers and size.

Campgrounds are also listed as a discretionary use under RR-2, meaning any development of a campground requires approval from the developing commission.

A public hearing for the silo rezoning will be held Tuesday, Oct. 11, 6 p.m. in council chambers.

Dome campground

One of the more contentious proposed rezonings is Bylaw 1337, which would rezone agricultural land near the Pieridae/Shell Waterton gas plant to rural recreation 1. The proposed rezoning is to allow the creation of a dome campground.

A lengthy public hearing was held back in August, with many residents speaking in favour of and against the project.

In response to many of the concerns raised during the public hearing, such as the loss of agricultural land and the potential for the campground to grow and bring too many tourists to the area, the proponent also decided to change the proposed rezoning to RR-2, which would limit the number of domes to 15 and rezone 58.55 acres instead of the entire quarter section, as originally proposed. RR-2 would also prohibit any RV parking on-site.

Council discussed the revised plan during its Sept. 27 meeting.

Due to the number of changes in the proposal, a second public hearing was needed if council wished the proposal to proceed. Alternatively, council could vote against the overall project, and the applicant would be required to wait a year before submitting the proposal again.

Turning down the application, said Coun. Harold Hollingshead, wasn’t necessarily a bad idea because it would give council some time to put together policy in a formal strategic plan that would determine where tourist accommodations could and could not be developed in the MD.

“At least we’d have a chance to work on a strat plan. If we go around and if it doesn't pass second reading, then we’ve got a year and we better be ready in a year,” he said.

The issue, added Coun. Tony Bruder, had no easy solutions.

“I don’t think this [campground] is overly intrusive, but how many of them do we go with until they become intrusive? I don’t know when the last time was you drove from Waterton to Cardston — how many do you want?” he asked.

“That’s the thing: how many do we want? How do you put a limit on this? Once you start, how do you say no?”

Even an official development plan wouldn’t totally solve the problem since people should have the right to do what they like on their property, Bruder continued.

“When do we start telling people, you live here [so] you can’t do this?” he asked. “It’s a hard one.”

On top of lacking a campground development policy, Reeve Rick Lemire said the information gained from holding a second public hearing might not be beneficial.

“Is another public hearing going to split the community more? We’re going to hear the same comments throughout,” he said. “We’re going to see the same emotion — people are going to fly off at those opposed, at those who are for.”

Delaying developmental approval until a strategic plan was in place, said Coun. Dave Cox, was bigger than this particular application.

“Do we want to turn down everything until we have a strategic plan?” he said. “Basically we’re going to put any development applications on hold.”

The fact the proponent adjusted their original application to a stricter scope in response to residents’ concerns, he added, would act as a guide for the details for other applications to ensure their projects fit within the needs of the community.

“This is an opportunity for us to set some precedent,” said Cox.

“I’d like to have another public hearing,” agreed Coun. John MacGarva. “He’s made the effort to react to changes that came out of the meeting, [and] I want to hear what people think about the changes.”

Council eventually decided to accept the submitted changes to the dome campground proposal and voted in favour of holding a second public hearing

Due to other scheduled public hearings and council attending the Rural Municipalities of Alberta convention, the public hearing won’t take place until Nov. 22, 6 p.m. in council chambers.

Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze