After months of rural municipalities airing their concerns over a pending regional growth plan, the strategy for the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board passed on Friday with a vote of 7-3.
Foothills County has been vocal from the start, along with rural counterparts Rocky View County and Wheatland County, about issues with the growth plan such as limited residential, commercial and industrial growth opportunities compared to urban partners: Calgary, Okotoks, High River, Strathmore, Chestermere, Cochrane and Airdrie.
As Foothills council and staff have stated in the past, the growth plan essentially allows for urban development and relegates rural areas for annexation and farming.
After years of seeing, hearing about - writing about - collaboration between Foothills County and its urban partners like Okotoks and High River on joint planning projects, like the Foothills-Okotoks construction of the field house and 2017 annexation agreement, it's disappointing to see the rural municipalities voted down and hushed at the bargaining table by their urban counterparts.
It's going to come back on the urban partners. Without the ability for robust economic development, rural municipalities will not be able to diversify their tax base and offset residential taxes.
That comes at a cost to the towns and cities. Foothills County may have to contribute less to shared services, meaning Okotoks, High River, and Calgary could be left holding the bag on some services like recreation that the County has contributed to in the past.
The growth plan is not a win-win. It's a loss for the rural municipalities in our area, and for residents of all communities that will feel its unknown effects down the road.
Not only have the rural municipalities lost the battle to see a plan with more fairness, they've lost their voice.
The growth plan hasn't officially been implemented yet, but the damage has been done.