A Dark Day for Okotoks: Canadian Town Removes Population Cap

September 27, 2012 • Water, United States, News

In a deflating sign of the times, the Canadian town of Okotoks has just lifted a 30,000 resident population cap which had been in place for the past 14 years. Partial background is provided below; with a recent news stories following. Obviously, the population cap policy was originally grounded in a great deal of thought, circumspection and foresight. To see the policy tossed aside in the quest for growth-almighty is a real shame.

See: http://www.okotoks.ca/default.aspx?cid=46

Not far from my hometown of Calgary, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, there is a beautiful little town called Okotoks. About 10 years ago, the folks there decided they were going to live within their local environmental means. Today Okotoks can fairly call itself the greenest community in Canada“…..Prime Minister Stephen Harper

In 1998, Okotoks made a decision about its future, becoming one of the first municipalities in the world to establish growth targets linked to infrastructure development and environmental carrying capacity when it adopted a Municipal Development Plan – ‘The Legacy Plan’. In 1998, the town faced an intersection in its evolution. Dependant on the Sheep River for its water and its ability to treat and dispose of effluent, Okotoks could choose to continually “grow without limits” and align with regional development and access to regional infrastructure, or take the “road less traveled” and intentionally choose to live within the carrying capacity of the local environment.

Informed by extensive public consultation, the high cost (a regional pipeline) of exceeding carrying capacity, and a preservation of a small town atmosphere value system expressed in a community survey, a community driven vision was created that chose to respond to rather than manipulate the environment to sustain our standard of living.   A population cap at the licensed limits of the Sheep River aquifer (approx. 30,000) became a key feature of Okotoks’ development path. A build-out municipal boundary for 30,000 people was established.

Okotoks lifts population cap, which means potential for big growth in town south of Calgary

See: http://www.calgarysun.com/2012/09/25/okotoks-lifts-population-cap-which-means-potential-for-big-growth-in-town-south-of-calgaryÂ

Grow-kotoks might be a better suited name for the town south of Calgary after shedding a long-standing population cap in preparation for staggering growth.

The town of Okotoks has for more than a decade maintained a policy that restricted growth to 30,000 people.

That changed Monday when council voted in favour of a move to annex land from the neighbouring Municipal District of Foothills.

The same council decided to exclude pipelines coming from Calgary as one of the options to provide water for future residents.

Coun. Matt Rockley, who was elected on an anti-cap platform, said the decision was in the best interest of the town.

He said the growth cap plan made a lot of sense when it was put in place in 1998, but development has changed the area immensely.

“At that time, the type of development that could happen in the town of Okotoks in the rural district was very low impact,” he said.

Gone are the days when a quarter of a section had only 32 houses, he said.

“Now the proposals we’re seeing are closer to 500 houses on a quarter section.”

Veteran Coun. Laurie Hodson was opposed to council’s decision.

“Yes, I was disappointed significantly that a majority of my colleagues seem to trash, scrap the Okotoks finite model,” said Hodson.

“They trashed, scrapped a model that has put us on a national, global stage in terms of an outstanding, leading-edge approach to sustainability into the future.”

Hodson is opposed to what’s called the “growth machine” which he sees in what he calls the “severely flawed governance structure” of the proposed Calgary Metropolitan Plan.

To read the full article, please click here: http://www.calgarysun.com/2012/09/25/okotoks-lifts-population-cap-which-means-potential-for-big-growth-in-town-south-of-calgary

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