Council voted 5-2 in favour of second reading of the county’s new land use bylaw on June 27, with Coun. Patrick Tighe and Wayne Bokenfohr opposed. They then voted unanimously to delay third reading to July 11 so residents would have more time to review it.
The proposed bylaw is a total rewrite of the county’s current land use legislation, which dates back to 1996.
Council has made a slew of amendments to the bill since hundreds of residents flooded the public hearing on it earlier this year. Contentious proposals to regulate agri-businesses are now off the table, as is a requirement for farm accessory buildings to have a development permit.
The law now lets farmers create “farm help accommodation” buildings on their land for workers as a permitted use. Council voted in early June to allow secondary suites as a discretionary use on ag-residential lands (parcels smaller than 9.8 acres) in addition to the R1 and R3 sectors – a reversal of a move they made in May. Development agents must approve permitted uses but can refuse discretionary ones.
Last week, council voted 6-1 in favour of a motion from Coun. Susan Evans to allow secondary suites on ag-minor lands – parcels that are 9.8 to 39.5 acres – with Tighe opposed.
More recent amendments make agricultural support services a discretionary use in farm areas and recreational vehicle storage facilities discretional uses in recreational zones.
Changes made last week modify the law’s development constraint overlay – one of a series of rule-sets that are attached to zones of heavy industry, resource extraction or (in this case) ecological significance.
The development constraint overlay now covers lands within 300 metres of the middle of waterways or the 1974 flood plain map (whichever is greater), and no longer makes all land uses in areas it covers discretionary. Instead, like the other overlays, it allows the development officer to set additional requirements for these zones such as environmental site assessments. Clayton Kittlitz, the county’s current manager of planning and development, noted that those requirements already exist under federal and provincial law – this overlay simply flags them for landowners.
Also added to the bylaw last week was an overlay for the 2.4 km area around Morinville – one introduced at the town’s request, Kittlitz said in an interview. This overlay limits agricultural zones in it to four homes per quarter section and bans billboard signs on the sides of trailers and containers. The county must also refer any applications for confined feeding operations, discretionary uses, subdivisions or other amendments in the overlay area to the town for comment.
Council also voted to create a transition period for the new law last week. Anyone who has a completed application in front of county staff after the law is passed but before it comes into force will get to choose whether they want it to be evaluated under the old or the new land use law. Council has yet to decide when the law will come into effect.
Council defeated a motion from Tighe on June 13 to delay second reading of the land use bylaw until after the election in a 3-4 vote, with Tighe, Coun. Wayne Bokenfohr and Mayor Tom Flynn in the minority.
Speaking against second reading, Tighe said council was acting prematurely and needed to do more public consultation.
“These are some significant changes that will impact a number of people’s lives.”
Bokenfohr shared his stance, saying that many residents didn’t get a chance to speak at the public hearing as it was dominated by farm issues. He’d also received a number of calls from residents who weren’t satisfied that council had done its due diligence with the law.
Coun. Susan Evans said she had also had many residents call about the bylaw, but once she explained the law to them, they came away satisfied with it.
“This is a living, breathing document,” she said.
“If there are gaps, we’re going to come back with amendments.”
The draft law returns for a final vote July 10. Visit sturgeoncounty.ca for details.