Foothills residents are raising concern over news of a proposed annexation of Sirocco lands by the City of Calgary.
After hearing news that the City voted March 15 to begin the process of acquiring an approximately 400-acre piece of land from the Sirocco area structure plan, located south of 210 Ave. S.W. and north of Sirocco Golf Club, Foothills resident Gail Burton penned a letter to the County raising her concerns.
“We residents have fought many annexations of our rural lands over the years,” Burton wrote, adding the initial plans for the Sirocco lands came with broken promises of limited development in the future.
She noted concern that the annexation would end up affecting more than the 400 acres in question, as other residents or developers may jump on board.
The letter urged Foothills County councillors to reject any proposal to annex the land.
“This is just the thin edge of the wedge where we in the rural area will lose more and more land and control over our lands,” said Burton, who has lived in Foothills for 40 years.
She said the County and its residents would stand to lose credibility in the fight against the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board’s growth plan if the municipality submitted to annexation.
Coun. Rob Siewert said that point gave him pause.
The proposed Sirocco annexation was borne out of the developer’s desire to transition the lands into the City, and the developer began working with councils in both municipalities, he said.
“In time, Foothills jumped on board and began pushing for an annexation, Calgary came on board and now fast-forward a while, we’re complaining about the CMRB and talking about loss of farm land being annexed,” said Siewert. “It puts Foothills County in a rather hypocritical position in terms of how we have handled this annexation request and how we’re handling the CMRB.”
Reeve Suzanne Oel said she has received calls from many concerned residents on the Sirocco annexation because there are a number of unanswered questions at this time, including the potential cost to the County.
There would be lengthy public consultation prior to any decisions being made, should the County receive a notice of intent from the City, she said.
Concerns about land holdings in light of the pending CMRB plan should be taken into consideration, she said.
“We are limited by the amount of development we’re able to see and we’re just not sure how we’re feeling about any of our area structure plans going into annexation at this time,” said Oel.
Heather Heminway, director of planning for Foothills County, said it’s likely the City will move forward with its notice of intent once it has finalized a contract with the Sirocco land developer to ensure it shoulders the estimated $100,000 cost to Calgary.
“That is being worked through right now,” said Hemingway. “We may see a notice of intent to annex by the summer, we may not. At this point we have not.”
Should the notice be filed, she said Foothills County is then obligated to negotiate with the City in good faith and take on extensive public engagement.
Details like which lands are being considered for annexation, the compensation to the County, and what the impact to Foothills would be in the long-term would be discussed in a public forum, she said.
“It’s a long process,” said Hemingway. “But I believe the City will pursue this and we will be at the table in negotiations at some point in 2021, maybe 2022.”