County of Wetaskiwin councillors examined amendments to the land use bylaw during their Feb. 8 Planning and Economic Development meeting before turning the process over to the land-use bylaw committee.
While going over definitions council came across a few points of concern regarding hobby farms, lake management and area concept plans. Council started to discuss the issues before reeve Kathy Rooyakkers pointed out there is a committee for such purposes.
Council ran into an issue when it came to distinguishing a hobby farm from an acreage or a farming operation.
A growing trend in the real estate world is a desire for larger acreages, and that can become an issue when it takes up productive soil.
Coun. Keith Johnson says the definition presented to council in the proposed bylaw amendments — during the planning and economic development meeting — included berry patches and market gardens, which could be using the productive agricultural soil. However, council recognized berry patches and market gardens may also need the good soil to become successful.
“How do we make it work? They may tell us their intent is a market garden, but what if they don’t follow through?” Coun. Garry Dearing asked his fellow councillors.
He voiced concern that every subdivision owner will be seeking hobby farm zoning if it means landowners can get more than land for themselves.
Rooyakkers says other counties have stipulations in place that as soon as hobby farm land is not being used agriculturally it is taxed as an acreage.
“But you still have the issue of good agricultural land being wasted,” said assistant CAO Rod Hawkens.
Coun. Larry McKeever felt it would be helpful for council to know what other counties are doing when it comes to hobby farms. “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”
He also mentioned perhaps the route to take would be to set a revenue quota for hobby farms and if the operation did not meet the quota it would not be taxed as a hobby farm.
Coun. Lyle Seely did not agree with taxing revenue, and mentioned some ratepayers want a hobby farm to keep horses rather than run a small farming operation.
“You tax on the use of the land,” said Seely.
Lake area district boundaries and concept plans
“I know we have water protection but Wizard Lake has its own (management plan),” said Rooyakkers.
She questioned, in regards to recreational uses, if other individual areas should also have separate, individualized plans.
Rooyakkers says there are many differences between the lakes in the County of Wetaskiwin. While Pigeon Lake is heavily populated, including the summer villages and Pigeon Lake Reserve 138A, Buck Lake is less densely populated and sees more camping.
“And we’re seeing the differences and I”m wondering if we should have looked a watershed areas or concept plans around each lake,” said Rooyakkers.
David Blades, director of planning and economic development, says the county had started a similar task with the Town of Millet in the past but ran into resource concerns.