By Stu Salkeld
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Bashaw town council wants more information from the group proposing a First Nations family wellness centre in the community, while also offering to meet with those organizers, nations and elders to discuss the proposal. The decisions were made at the March 7 regular meeting of council.
Councillors examined the development permit application filed by Bear Hills Family Wellness Centre located at 5430 51a Street which originally listed owner/operators James Carpenter and Dr. Tony Mucciarone.
This was the second time the application was made after being turned down by Bashaw council last year, and includes a request to approve a new use for the existing building. The facility is located in a “direct control” (DC) zone which means town council approves zoning changes there.
On the application included in the agenda package “nature of the business” was stated as, “Family wellness centre. A centre to support and promote the wellbeing of families.”
Town Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Theresa Fuller, also Bashaw’s development officer, included a letter she sent back to Carpenter and Mucciarone which stated the development permit application wasn’t complete. Fuller stated some information was originally missing from the application: phone numbers, mailing address, confirmation of the identity of the applicant, a site plan showing certain features and setbacks, picture of proposed sign, description of what’s to be stored on site, a detailed description of what services will be offered in the centre and confirmation of any internal renovations.
Fuller noted the Municipal Government Act (MGA) gives council the authority to request more information and a response from Bear Hills didn’t include all the missing information.
The agenda package included that response from Lucy Smolcic, described as representative for Bear Hills, who stated, “…we completed the application in its entirety.” However, Smolcic’s letter included more information such as a phone number and mailing address and a description of services which Smolcic described as “The same services as the Bashaw Hub except on an expanded level,”
then went on to list 18 services which included, among others, cultural teaching and elder teaching, medicine wheel teaching, the Matrix teaching on drug/alcohol abuse, AA program including 12 steps, National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse program and AADAC.
Coun. Jackie Northey asked how development permit applications are reviewed. Fuller responded the town receives the application, reviews it for completeness and responds to the applicants within 21 days.
Assisting Fuller was consultant Liz Armitage, a registered professional planner, who stated the process is laid out in the MGA and is the same for all municipalities across Alberta.
Armitage pointed out all applicants go through the same process, including disclosing proposed uses for the new development, and it applies to everything from decks right up to a new building.
Coun. Kyle McIntosh asked Armitage to explain who she was and why she was at the meeting, to which Armitage responded she is a planner who does a lot of work for municipalities such as Bashaw.
McIntosh asked about the definition of a family wellness centre and Armitage answered there is no definition in Bashaw’s Land Use Bylaw (LUB) which seems to fit what Bear Hills is proposing but she stated a definition is one of the pieces of information the town would like the applicants to provide. She stated if there is no definition in the LUB the LUB would have to be altered to accommodate it.
McIntosh asked what would happen to the site if it’s re-zoned but the proposal doesn’t proceed, a question asked by different people several times during the meeting.
Armitage responded typically the town allows 12 months for a development to begin and two to three years for it to finish and if nothing happens by then the permit is cancelled.
McIntosh asked what was missing from the application. Fuller repeated parts of the list given above and clarified the development permit fee was paid by a numbered company, resulting in some confusion while Fuller went on to say there was still confusion over who the applicant is and who the owner is although Smolcic clarified in a letter Carpenter and Mucciarone own the building involved and the operator is Audrey Ward, executive director of the Maskwacis Young Spirit Winds Society (YSWS).
Armitage pointed out applications have to be exacting to ensure the proper authority is involved and all laws are followed.
Armitage lastly pointed out it didn’t seem the town was speaking with the “end users” and suggested a third party host a meeting involving the town and the end users.
According to the Youth Solvent Addiction Committee website, YSWS is “…an outpatient day program for aboriginal youth ages 12 to 17 years of age. Topics covered in the day treatment program include:
Communication and self awareness; addictions and assessments; cultural identity; health and awareness; grief, loss and recovery; self esteem and peer pressure; anger management and cycle of violence; family and community; NAAAW; addictions and relapse prevention; coping skills and change.”
Mayor Rob McDonald stated he was in favour of a third party hosting a meeting between the Town of Bashaw and “the four First Nations” to discuss this application.
At this point Montana First Nation Chief Leonard Standingontheroad said that there are protocols to be followed when meeting with First Nations chiefs and if the town wants to meet with them the town should send an invitation.
Councillors passed three motions unanimously, first to set a May 9 target for getting more information on the application, to begin the process of meeting with the four First Nations and to plan an information session about this proposal within Bashaw.
By Stu Salkeld is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the EAST CENTRAL ALBERTA REVIEW . The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.