Written in response to Calgary Mayor Bronconier’s accusation that rural municipalities are encouraging “rural sprawl”. Dated November 2, 2005
Mayor Bronconier’s condemnation of “rural sprawl” has a liberal dose of hypocrisy attached to it. He has encouraged a rate of growth in Calgary that ranked Calgary as one of the worst offenders in “urban sprawl” in North America. Now that there is little room left to expand, that rate has dropped and Bronconier is taking aim at surrounding municipalities. The alarm bell should be rung – the rate of expansion along highway 8 is scary – but Bronconier should have shown more concern about his own city. It is his lack of planning that set the stage for the building boom beyond the city’s borders.
Bragg Creek is paying a price for its residents’ active opposition to residential development. The local economy is a wreck and public services, notably water supply and treatment, are non existent. Very few people live and work in the community. Estimates indicate that 75% of homes are sustained by the income earner commuting to work in Calgary. In fact, that is the source of the problem. People use their acreage homes as a refuge from the city and oppose any initiatives that could create a local sustainable economy.
The solution to rural sprawl is a distributed economy, where rural centres scattered across Alberta form a network of business and industry centres. A green belt around Calgary and other city centres would prohibit the endless sprawl of the city. People, their companies and their jobs would move to rural communities where their quality of life would improve and their wealth could be used to enhance the public services available there.
The green belts should have tentacles that extend out along the watersheds that supply fresh water and a natural habitat that nurtures the city. Bragg Creek lies within the Elbow River watershed. Special attention needs to be paid to development in the area. The area needs to develop economic activities that can be used to protect and preserve the natural habitat in the area. No development is not an option. The pressure of urban growth will soon overwhelm the efforts of local residents to resist the developers. Only investment designed to protect the environment can stave off the paving of paradise. There is a unique opportunity for investors to develop a mecca for health and well-being that would include activities, recreation and refuge in an ecological preserve.