File photo

File photo

County of Wetaskiwin land use bylaw nears final approval

Newly elected councillors bring new concerns to the table

The County of Wetaskiwin’s land use bylaw came within inches of being passed, finally. However, it was not and the draft bylaw will come back to the county’s next planning and economic development meeting in April 2018.

County councillors held a public hearing to address the land use bylaw at their March 8 planning and economic development meeting.

The first two readings of the bylaw have passed. The first reading was opposed by Coun. Josh Bishop. The second reading was opposed by councillors Bishop and Dale Woitt.

Woitt expressed an interest in delaying approval of the bylaw until details around 14-day short term camping RV use and permits for short term camping could be set.

However, he retracted his wish to set them in the bylaw after it was explained those guidelines would be better in a policy rather than the land use bylaw, as policies are easier to amend.

Bishop was opposed to passing the bylaw at the time over concerns about adding second residences to already subdivided lots.

With the current bylaw, residents are able to add a secondary dwelling in the form of a mobile home, for use in compassionate care situations.

“The concern is that there is no set timeline for removal, as well as possible devaluation of property in some subdivisions,” said Bishop.

With the amendment in the bylaw, allowing secondary suites, Bishop says he does not see a need to allow mobile homes allowed on properties for such a use. However, he adds those already in place would be grandfathered into the bylaw and his concern focuses on new applications.

“This in no way affects mobile home use in Country Residential lots, only keeps intact the intent of the creation of country residential lots to have one dwelling per lot. Being that the bylaw applies to all of the county there is possibility in many subdivisions of devaluation of property where there are no mobile homes currently,” said Bishop.

The two major changes proposed in the bylaw that council addressed during their meeting included the finalizing of what Agricultural Hobby Farm zoning would look like in the county and the allowance of secondary suites in dwellings.

The proposed bylaw allows for secondary suites inside currents residences so long as all applicable provincial safety codes are met and designated sizing directions are met.

The concept was brought forward last year as an important topic to consider, says David Blades, director of planning and economic development.

During the public hearing neither councillors nor members of the public had any comments for secondary suites.

Hobby Farms, as a land use district, is a new addition to the bylaw.

With hobby farms, a priority for the county remains keeping high grade agricultural land in production. “There would be the criteria that good soil wasn’t going to be taken out of a quarter section,” said Blades.

He added direction from the Minister of Agriculture also prioritizes agricultural land.

Land proposed for hobby farms must have an area of at least 80 per cent of the land showing no greater than 30 per cent soil rating.

Coun. Terry Van der Kraats questioned if hobby farms would be better off classified as Agricultural Small Farm because it would allow individuals to operate agricultural practices on small parcels.

Reeve Kathy Rooyakkers says the county picked up the term because the land use will only allow for basic operations in order to save high quality agricultural soil.

There were no comments from the public addressing hobby farms.

Every member of the public who spoke during the public hearing was there to speak to recreational vehicle (RV) use in the land use bylaw, with the exception of one, who implored council to better enforce its animal control bylaw.

The RV use issues within the county dates back decades, and although council is opting not to change the amendments made in 2015 residents still took the opportunity at the public hearing to address council regarding their concerns.

The enforcement of the county’s 14-day short term camping rule is a concern of permanent residents that campers will take advantage of the county’s limited enforcement resources to cheat the system by pulling out for a day or half a day and resume camping on a new 14-day period.

Related concerns include the amount of noise and dust the moving trailer could create in Country Residential areas.

Public suggestion involved developing a short-term camping permit system. Campers would have to display a permit and those without the permit would then be a target for the county’s complaint-driven enforcement model.

“I think that’s a great idea. It would certainly help with enforcement,” said Woitt.

“It’s something we could look into in the future,” said Rooyakkers.

Assistant CAO Jeff Chipley says the matter would take clerical resources, and the county would have to have a discussion around how the system would operate and if there would be a fee for the permits.