July 12th, 2024

Region talks continue out of view

By Collin Gallant on July 4, 2024.

Medicine Hat Mayor Linnsie Clark, Cypress County Reeve Dan Hamilton and Redcliff Mayor Dwight Kilpatrick (front seat) ride together in the 2023 Medicine Hat Stampede Parade. -- News File Photo

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The three municipalities around Medicine Hat are progressing talks toward changes into a long-standing joint plan to guide development in the region, but it’s all being held in a flurry of closed session meetings this spring.

It comes several months after Cypress County council threatened to leave a working group of elected officials with Redcliff and the Hat, which discusses land use on each other’s boundaries and more recently, joint service delivery and potential for joint economic development.

Discussions held by all three councils are being kept confidential, though Cypress County Reeve Dan Hamilton told the News on Tuesday that indications are positive that unstated proposal to update the agreement could be ready this fall.

“There are a lot of moving parts to this, so that requires a lot of internal discussions right now,” said Hamilton. “It’s all positive. There are some things that we want to get done. The city recognizes that. Things are looking pretty good, and when there is something final to bring to ratepayers, we will.”

Medicine Hat city council’s regularly scheduled closed session before Tuesday’s regular meeting featured “Tri-Area IDP Review Letter” on a publicly available agenda of the meeting, the details of which administrators say is protected, according to Freedom of Information exemptions.

IDP references the “Intermunicipal Development Plan” agreed to by the city, Cypress County and Town of Redcliff almost 15 years ago.

It was also discussed during an in camera session of city council on June 17.

Three days later the Town of Redcliff called a special closed meeting to discuss the IDP.

Also in attendance, however, were five members of Cypress County council and top administrators from the two municipalities, according to minutes of the meeting.

Hamilton said that administrators with the three IDP parties meet regularly. Medicine Hat Coun. Shila Sharps shared Hamilton’s sentiment and says more information could be made available after all parties finish discussing key parts.

Three other members of the elected officials, including mayors Linnsie Clark and Dwight Kilpatrick, of Redcliff, and Councillor Robin Kurpjuweit, did not respond to requests for comment from the News.

The IDP was last updated in 2020 along with a further agreement for elected officials to meet regularly to discuss expanding the development agreement to potentially include areas of service delivery, like road maintenance, utilities, recreation and other civic facilities.

Cypress County voted in May to draft a letter pulling out of the Tri-Area Intermunicipal committee.

At the time, Sharps told the News that the pace of advancing some issues was a likely source of contention in county circles.

County officials provided little public comment on the decision, that was later paused without official action being taken.

The IDP was created in the early 2010s to give each municipality the opportunity to comment on proposals in another along common boundaries. It predated provincial government requirement to for all municipalities to enact inter-municipal land planning along common boundaries and discuss potential collaborations.

The local IDP outlines potential growth areas where development would be focused for ease of servicing and other considerations, like future planning.

It was renewed in 2020, at which time “collaboration” was added as a principle – described as shared service delivery, like road maintenance t potentially recreation facilities — of the group and the committee formed.

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