'I'm pretty flummoxed': Calgary mayor says council made wrong call on land annex vote
Mayor says city does not need more land in deep south
City council has passed a motion to open annexation talks with the Municipal District of Foothills, for an area on the southern edge of Calgary.
The motion passed 8-7, and went against the recommendation of city administration.
"I'm pretty flummoxed that council went against the recommendation of its own administration, repeated recommendations from administration, and chose to move forward with what can only be characterized as a gift to one land developer," Mayor Naheed Nenshi told CBC News on Tuesday.
Nenshi voted against the motion — which was the final vote of the night on council's final evening before taking a summer break.
Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart tabled the motion to open annexation talks with the M.D. of Foothills.
Nenshi said the city doesn't need that parcel of land, referred to as the Sirocco lands, adding there are no plans to develop it anytime soon.
"So what are we doing?" mused the mayor after the vote.
The decision has critics crying foul, accusing council of quietly pushing it through late at night while Calgarians were focused on things like COVID-19, the virus' effects on the economy, and the expense audit for Ward 2 Coun. Joe Magliocca.
1/ Under the cover of night, 8 of Calgary's <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/fiscalconservative?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#fiscalconservative</a> councillors voted this past Tuesday to spend our money buying more needless, wasteful, expensive land in the distant edge development called Sirocco. 😡 <a href="https://t.co/lCJoFVCqU8">https://t.co/lCJoFVCqU8</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/yyccc?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#yyccc</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/sprawl?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#sprawl</a>—@GregGinYYC
Ward 3 Coun. Jyoti Gondek took to Twitter to explain why she voted yes in a series of tweets.
"There was a thread a few days ago about how [city council] made a decision to subsidize sprawl in the cover of night (I'm paraphrasing but you get the idea). I can't speak for my colleagues but I can explain my decision. It was based on authorizing purchase of a remnant parcel," Gondek tweeted.
"Given the history of the land in question provided by the ward councillor, [Diane Colley-Urquhart] and the support of the neighbouring county, my decision was based on bringing this remnant parcel into the urban jurisdiction best suited for the proposed uses. This was not a decision to undertake a massive annexation."
5/There are a number of places adjacent to our municipal boundaries where “clean up” opps have been identified, to purchase remnant parcels. This was one of those cases. As far as the $ that will be “wasted” on this, I would argue that we have wasted $ on the regional effort.—@JyotiGondek
During the July 28 meeting, Ward 13 Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart spoke about the history of the land, and why she believes the deal will be good for the City of Calgary.
Colley-Urquhart calls it a remnant parcel. It is a portion of land that was not acquired during previous annexations of a larger area, some of which was annexxed in order to build the community of Pine Creek in Calgary's deep southwest.
Colley-Urquhart says the parcel left over can and should be developed, but in order to run utilities, the city would need to own the land.
"The remaining lands were left without water and sanitary services. The only practical solution is servicing from Calgary," Colley-Urquhart said at the meeting.
The mayor agrees with the eight councillors on that point at least.
"I don't want to make their argument for them but the idea is that these lands can't be developed without city servicing and the city doesn't service outside of Calgary," he said.
The price tag for the land has not been disclosed. But Nenshi said the last annexation deal back in 2005 cost the city $1.5 million. The mayor worries that at today's prices, the land won't be worth the price tag.
With files from Scott Dippel