After years of playing nice, the gloves are coming off.
In the latest chapter in a years-long battle over development east of Calgary, the City of Chestermere has filed an application to annex nearly 25,000 acres of Rocky View County — a move Mayor Patricia Matthews describes as a last-ditch effort to preserve her city’s interests.
“This wasn’t done to develop land,” she said.
“This was done to freeze bad planning under a comprehensive and sustainable plan can be put in place.”
The conflict centres on development in the unincorporated hamlet of Conrich and the strain it would put on city infrastructure and services — concerns largely ignored by the county, she alleges.
“We have concerns about how a light industrial development roughly three-times the size of Balzac is going to be serviced, and what it’s going to look like.”
Calling the annexation deeply concerning, county officials disputed Chestermere’s position in a statement posted on its website.
“We believe this is an ongoing attempt by Chestermere to hobble the County’s economic development in order to build up their own under-performing business and commercial tax base,” said county reeve Greg Boehlke.
“It’s not about land.”
He accused Chestermere of circumventing the Municipal Governance Act by filing the proposal without due consultations with city and county stakeholders.
“Now that we’re backed into a corner and have nowhere else to go, we’re being told we should have had conversations about this?” Matthews said.
“Every time we extended an olive branch, it got snapped and handed back to us.”
She said Chestermere has tried for six years to draft a “good-neighbour” agreement with the county.
“When they approved the Conrich area structure plan without so much of a line of consideration … we knew we had no other choice,” she said.
Chestermere’s annexation plan consists of a horseshoe-shaped swath of land encompassing nearly 40 sections of county land.
If approved by the province, the land grab would nearly triple the city’s current geographical area.
“It’s in order to be able to address future plans that would be coming, so we’re not in the same boat again,” she said.
“If it took us six years to get to this point with Conrich, who knows what situation we’ll be in when development begins again on our borders.”