Regional Governance Structuring Study
The Village of Caroline, Clearwater County, and the Town of Rocky Mountain House are participating in a Regional Governance Study (the Study) to explore the most effective and efficient governance structure to support the region’s growth and long-term prosperity for all citizens. The Study has been funded by a grant provided by the Province of Alberta.
The Municipal Government Act requires all municipalities to prepare and adopt a Municipal Development Plan (MDP). The Act states that an MDP must address such issues as future land use and development in the municipality, the provision of municipal services and facilities, inter-municipal issues such as future growth areas and the co-ordination of transportation systems and infrastructure. It is primarily a policy document that can be utilized as a framework for the physical development of the community, within which both public and private decision making can occur.
The Village’s current MDP was approved in May 2019 as Bylaw 2019-005. It includes Caroline’s Vision Statement and its vision for each of its key attributes such as “natural setting” and “community identity” as well as aspirational goals for “employment and economic development” and “tourist hub”. It includes a Future land Use Concept as well as goals and objectives in areas such as growth management, urban form, parks, recreation and culture and the environment.
All statutory and non -statutory plans must conform with the MDP. Consequently, the development regulations policies and districts in the Land Use Bylaw must conform with the broad direction in the MDP.
The land Use Bylaw is a regulatory document which outlines specific rules and regulations for the development of land and buildings .The Plan divides the Village into the following Land Use Districts:
• R1 Low Density Residential District
• R2 General Residential District
• R3 Manufactured Home District
• R4 Very Low Density Residential District
• C Commercial district
• HC Highway Commercial District
• I Industrial District
• PI public/Institutional District
• RD Reserved for Future Development District
The Village’s Land Use Bylaw was originally adopted as Bylaw # 450 and has been amended several times. The plan provides for permitted and discretionary land uses and policies within each designated Land Use District. Permitted uses are approved by the Development Officer, and discretionary uses are considered by the Municipal Planning Commission (MPC), appointed by Council. MPC decisions can be appealed through the Intermunicipal Appeal Board.
All municipal development and programs, within city operations and budgets, must conform with this bylaw or follow an amendment process. Nevertheless, the Province can overrule any local planning bylaws through Ministerial direction.
An Intermunicipal Development Plan (IDP) is a long-range planning document for two or more municipalities to determine future growth and land use in bordering areas.
The Village of Caroline and the County of Clearwater jointly prepared the Caroline-Clearwater Intermunicipal Development Plan in April 2019 as Bylaw No.2019-003 and Bylaw No.1061/19. The plan outlines development constraints and growth areas surrounding the village, in what is termed the Greater Caroline Area.
The Plan emphasizes the synergy between the village and the County as the gateway to the West Country, where many Albertans visit and recreate in nearby natural areas and Mountain parks. The plan states:
“There is a high degree of daily interaction among County and village residents as they share employment opportunities, school facilities and educational programs and recreation facilities. Village and County residents participate on the same teams and in the same clubs, shop at the same stores, frequent the same restaurants and volunteer with the same community organizations.”
The plan identifies the following five land use policy areas.
• Village Growth Area
• Joint Growth Area
• County Growth/Rural Acreage Area
• Natural/Open Space Area
• Agricultural /Rural Development Area.
The Village Growth Area identifies an expanded village boundary to the west and south. The areas along the river are designated for open space with trail linkages into the village. The area to the southwest is designated for County Growth with rural acreages. The areas to the north and northeast are Joint Growth Areas earmarked for “joint development”. The concept of “joint development” is seen as a major opportunity, as these areas could be developed by sharing infrastructure costs and future tax revenue.
In 2016 the Provincial Government adopted the Modernized Municipal Government Act. This Act required all municipalities, sharing a common boundary, to develop an Intermunicipal Collaboration Framework (ICF)within three years. The ICFs “must specify what and how services are funded and delivered with other municipalities.”
The Caroline-Clearwater Intermunicipal Collaboration Framework was adopted by both Councils in April 2019.The purpose of the ICF is to set out the broad parameters of how the Village of Caroline and the County of Clearwater will:
• Provide for the integrated and strategic planning, delivery, and funding of intermunicipal services.
• Steward scarce resources efficiently in providing local services.
• Ensure that the Village and County contribute funding to services that benefit their residents.
The framework builds on the long-standing tradition of the Village and County working together to serve the needs and interests of the broad regional community. The plan includes provisions for governance and process, an inventory of current services, and principles for determining future intermunicipal services.
The plan establishes an Intermunicipal Collaboration Committee (ICC) as a working group to discuss intermunicipal matters. This would include identifying new service areas, monitoring existing agreements and resolving issues, as they arise. Individual Councils maintain final authority for decisions in their respective municipalities.
The 2009 Capital Infrastructure Plan was developed on the assumption that the Village would remain at its existing size and population and this formed the basis of all capital estimates. Since that time, considerable planning has been done to establish Caroline as a growth hub within the southwest portion of the County. This is reflected in the Municipal Development Plan (MDP) and the Caroline Clearwater Intermunicipal Development Plan (IDP). Growth is proposed in the northeast, where a County industrial subdivision has been developed, as well as to the west along Main Street, where services along 49th Avenue have been extended.
The Village Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP)approval required the Village to undertake a Receiving Water Quality Study to ensure the current treatment process can meet the provincial and Federal Wastewater Treatment Effluent Discharge Regulations. The Village commissioned WSP Engineering to undertake the water quality study. In anticipation of the results of this study and potential future growth, the Village hired Stantec Engineering undertake a Lagoon Upgrade Feasibility Study.
If the results of the Receiving Water Quality Study meet all the required standards, there is no need to immediately upgrade the system. However, depending on the outcome and ever-changing discharge regulations, the study evaluates four upgrade options. These are:
• Mechanical Plant
• Submerged Attached Growth Reactor (SAGR)
• Moving Bed Bioreactor (MBBR)
• Conventional Lagoon Upgrade and Expansion
The capital cost and 30 year operating and maintenance costs for these alternatives range from $11.1 million for a mechanical plant to$3.8 million for a conventional lagoon system upgrade. The lagoon upgrade is based on a once-a-year discharge as well as land purchase for a new lagoon cell.
The study recommends that once the Receiving Water Quality Study is accepted by the Province, the alternatives and potential funding sources be discussed with Alberta Environment and Parks in order to establish a clear path for future development.
The Capital Infrastructure Plan is based on the 2004 Growth and Infrastructure Master Plan and an assumption that the Village will not experience significant growth. The plan states as follows:
“As a result of static population, the impact of future development on this capital infrastructure plan is negated or used selectively as needed. For the purpose of this report the proposed infrastructure rehabilitation is based on priority of required replacements and upgrades to the sanitary sewer, roadways and water distribution networks, as opposed to the typical population horizons.”
As a result of the above assumptions, recommendations in the Plan are primarily focused on maintaining existing infrastructure rather than accommodating potential growth.
The conclusions of the study are that the “vital parts of any community such as water well supply, water treatment and sewage treatment are currently in very good condition within the village”. However, the water and wastewater distribution systems require major upgrades. Areas of extreme roadway deterioration were also identified.
Due to limited resources, the Village has relied almost entirely on Federal and Provincial funding to address the areas identified for priority maintenance. Since 2009 the following major projects have been implemented.
• 2017: 50th street Upgrading including all underground services
As this is Provincial Highway 54, 66% of the total project was funded by the Province.
• 2014: Sanitary Lagoon Outfall Main Replacement
• 2020/21: 49th Avenue Reconstruction and sewer extension to the west
The Plan identifies infrastructure upgrades, which are beyond the financial capacity of the Village, and Provincial and Federal funding will be required.
The Caroline Wastewater System operates under approval through the Environmental and Enhancement Act, subject to a number of conditions regarding certified operation, monitoring and testing. As part of the renewal requirements in October 2016, the Village was required to complete a Receiving Water Quality and Environmental Risk Assessment of its WWTP. The assessment needs to follow the approach described in the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment Canada-wide Strategy for the Management of Municipal Wastewater Effluent.
The assessment summarizes the ambient water quality and current conditions in the receiving stream in the vicinity of the wastewater Treatment Plant effluent discharge location, and proposes new effluent criteria for the plant.
There was limited data available on the Raven River water quality and flow conditions near the outfall. To compensate for this lack of data, field investigations, including river sampling and monitoring, were undertaken. Data sources used to establish ambient conditions included two continuous flow monitoring systems and three water quality sampling locations. The report was completed and presented to Village Council on March 6th, 2020. The report concludes that there are no concerns with the effluent going into the river and it has a negligible impact on its water quality.
Council accepted the report with the stipulation that it be submitted to the Province with a request to extend the license for a ten-year period. The report was submitted to Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) in March 2020 and discussion between the Ministry staff and the consultant is ongoing. No requirement for a major upgrade to the system is anticipated at this time.
The Village commissioned Stantec Engineering to identify what infrastructure upgrades would be required to serve the northeast area of the Village, including the County Industrial Area.
The County prepared estimated design flows for water and sewer based on a full buildout of these area with traditional industrial and commercial development. The study identifies the infrastructure required to meet these estimates.
The study proposes a future loop water distribution system to ensure an adequate fire flow as well as pump and electrical upgrades. The cost of these improvements would be approximately $1.5 million plus engineering fees and a contingency allowance. Depending on the location and size of new development the improvements can be developed in phases.
The study could not reach a final conclusion on the capacity of the existing aerated lagoon and continuous discharge system into the Raven River. A final calculation is dependent on the completion and Provincial approval of a “receiving water study” being undertaken by WSP Engineering. The study will determine if the existing lagoon system has the capacity to meet the wastewater requirements laid out in the Wastewater System Effluent Regulations under the Fishery Act (WSER 2012).
Apart from the lagoon System the study notes that the sanitary main along 49th street is in poor to very poor condition and requires replacement. The main from the end of 49th Street to the lagoon was replaced in 2012.The estimated cost of this replacement is $920,000 plus engineering fees and contingencies.
This report was presented to Village council and received for information at its meeting on April 29th, 2021.