Working with people, not against them

Working with people, not against them

Is Rocky View County getting a reputation that it is difficult and risky to work with? Based on comments regarding a number of unsolicited, independent separate incidents, it seems that for some, it is.

In the past, Rocky View County has worked co-operatively with residents and builders to ensure that the intent and integrity of building codes and development permits are met. If a particular aspect of the project did not meet requirements, and there was clearly an issue, Rocky View staff worked with the builder or the resident to determine what needed to be done in order to satisfy the conditions and address the situation in a mutually beneficial manner.

Generally, it worked well and people were able to move forward and get things done while achieving the required standards. Increasingly over the last year, we are told, it seems there’s been a shift in attitude in some of the senior staff and this is becoming apparent through a number of independent stories and situations.

… there’s been a shift in attitude in some of the senior staff…

In one case, a resident investigated Rocky View requirements and believed it was permissible for him to landscape his property with an eight foot high berm along the south edge of his property. His neighbors were agreeable. Clearly, it did not affect any waterway or storm water flow. It was simply there to quiet some of the road noise. Later, Rocky View staff noticed the berm and told the owner he must have a development permit for the now-existing berm.

He questioned he necessity on this project, but dutifully went ahead and applied for the development permit and paid the fees. He was then told he needed to provide a deep soils report. Next, he would need to provide an engineering storm water report. Then, the County wanted a $5,000 deposit which they would retain if he failed to deliver these costly reports for this now-grassy, small, well-landscaped berm on his own property.

It seemed the approach involved unnecessary bureaucracy and expense, rather than common sense and cooperation.

He accepted that the rules make complete sense if the property is being changed with some building development.  But this is landscape project. According to Rocky View policy, no building would be allowed where the berm is located.  Similarly, the small berm is surrounded by county ditches so the only place for the storm water to continue to go is downhill to the ditches designed for this.

Overall, it seemed the approach involved unnecessary bureaucracy and expense, rather than common sense and cooperation.

Some developers and associated builders have shared similar perspectives. They are committed to building and providing quality for their clients. They risked their capital to provide housing that meets the needs of their clients in a manner uniquely complementary to the Rocky View landscape. They are committed to meeting or exceeding the legitimate intent of all building code requirements. Recently, it seems Rocky View is taking an increasingly difficult approach that is less collaborative.

Other builders who have added award-winning multi-million dollar homes to Rocky View for over two decades have begun to consider working elsewhere.

Other builders who have added award-winning multi-million dollar homes to Rocky View for over two decades have begun to consider working elsewhere. Their recent stories of approved development plans and engineering documents that clearly meet or exceed the intent of the building codes being changed or rejected by the Manager of Building Services or his staff at Rocky View County are costing changes that could result in these high-quality builders taking their skills to other jurisdictions. For example, in one case these post-approval changes by the County and unusual interpretations of the building code cost the homeowner approximately $100,000 in lost work and redesign. We understand that homeowner may pursue legal action against the County which could incur new costs for County taxpayers to defend the County against this legal action.

For others, the delays in getting responses back from the County on various permit applications have put  their existing development permits at risk of being canceled because the process is held up by the County. Some of this is likely the workload on the many good people at Rocky View. These builders are willing to work with that reality. But to experience delays getting information back from the County and then risk the same County threatening cancellation of the approved development permits feels overly bureaucratic and does not build trust.

In one case these post-approval changes by the County and unusual interpretations of the building code cost the homeowner approximately $100,000 in lost work and redesign.

Recently, Rocky View 2020 was graciously allowed to meet with the County Manager and other management personnel. We brought some of these concerns forward in the meeting. We suggested that perhaps Rocky View 2020 (or someone, perhaps the County) host an open forum where concerns could be expressed and more collaborative working arrangements built. Regrettably, this suggestion was not entertained.

This leaves residents and builders with no ‘Court of Appeal’ within the County.  If the new Manager of Building services of Rocky View forces what is perceived as an unreasonable position, the individual or company can only appeal to the province. That appeal process can take three months or more. By that time, projects have been critically delayed and may suffer greater losses.

These individuals and companies have to date been reluctant to be publicly critical of the new operational challenges in Rocky View. These are good folks. Skilled award winning entrepreneurs, that want to work with the County not against it. They would rather work collaboratively than become targets for retribution from some Rocky View authorities.

We are not here to streamline proposals that don’t measure up. On the contrary we are here to tell the developer to quit stinking up the place with his brain farts. (Al Sacuta, Rocky View Councillor)

Could it be that this attitude has been fueled by Councillors known to be opposed to people moving into new Rocky View developments? Recently Councillor Al Sacuta stated in his personal advertisement in the August 5th Rocky View weekly that “We must instill a regulator mindset of … We are not here to streamline proposals that don’t measure up. On the contrary we are here to tell the developer to quit stinking up the place with his brain farts. I talked to our County Manager and the APEGA CEO. I expect improvements in our process by later this year.”

This combative attitude towards even long-standing award-winning builders who have a track record of being committed to meeting and exceeding legitimate requirements is hurting the reputation of Rocky View County. It is getting increasingly known as a hard place to successfully bring creative development solutions forward. This may be exactly what some people want. If this is their short-term strategy, it is only succeeding to the long-term detriment of our County.

Rocky View 2020 continues to endorse a more collaborative approach.

Rocky View 2020 continues to endorse a more collaborative approach with those who are interested in investing and adding value to Rocky View communities to help us all achieve the inviting, thriving and sustainable County that’s called for the County Plan Vision Statement.

 

3 thoughts on “Working with people, not against them

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *