An online petition from Foothills County is part of their latest bid to be removed from the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board.

The county has been vocal about their opposition to the board and the proposed Regional Growth Plan for some time now.

Foothills County Reeve Suzanne Oel says that at its core, it puts rural municipalities at a disadvantage.

"It restricts us in residential development and employment development. It only allows us to develop home-based business and agriculture-related business, and the rest must be approved by Calgary and the other urbans. We feel this is significant enough for us to pull out this call to action."

This is the most recent initiative from the county, which encouraged residents to voice their opinion on the growth plan back in March.

The subsequent "What We Heard" report indicates they did exactly that, with many of the responses in the "verbatim comments" section of the report having come from rural residents voicing displeasure regarding the plan.

According to Oel, Foothills County isn't alone in its opposition.

"We want to be able to get back to partnering with our neighbours, which we've done really well in the past, and remedying some of the fallen relationships due to this plan. It's very heavily urban-focused and the bias is to get development in urban centres instead of in the counties. Four members want out at this point, Rockyview County, Foothills County, Wheatland County, and the Town of Strathmore, so four out of the ten want out," says Oel.

She says the board adds needless bureaucracy and red tape when municipalities already had avenues to address disputes under the Municipal Government Act.

Oel says the disadvantage to rural municipalities is already on display.

"Rockyview County has put a couple of proposals in and followed the process. They have an interim valuation in place right now, so they have submitted a number of applications, three of which have to go to the administration of the CMRB, and then it goes to a third-party consultant, all of which were approved. It had been through the county's approval process, and the City of Calgary and other urbans have decided, at will, that they don't want to proceed, so they're challenging it.

"That again is the perfect example that shows that there's no surety for projects that you want to do in your municipality because of the unfair proportion of urbans and rurals and the voting structure. Even if you've done all this work and tried to meet the plan, you don't have the ability to have a decision that's in favour of what you've moved forward."

While the region board approved the plan in May, it will make its way to the municipal affairs minister's desk along with a Regional Servicing Plan and Regional Evaluation Framework sometime in the fall.

Oel is hoping they'll be able to appeal to the minister and local MLA's before then and feels there's hope in that avenue.

"We really think our MLAs understand and we also believe they can support their other urbans as well as supporting us in regards to doing something that's fair. If we look at all the information, put it all on the table, there should be an ability to come up with something that doesn't put us at such a disadvantage.

"Them hearing us, listening to us, and knowing there's a large number of people that want to have something done to make this right, we believe there is hope for that."


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