County hears few concerns as plan moves forward

Richard Froese
South Peace News
A new municipal development plan and updated land-use bylaw for Big Lakes County is moving forward.

At its regular meeting April 12, council gave second reading for the bylaws after hearing two submissions at a public hearing.

“Staff will address the comments and bring back a report for council at a future meeting,” says acting reeve David Marx.

Snipe Lake South Shore Resort Ltd. requests that its property would be more appropriately designated within the communal recreational district rather than commercial recreation since many of the permitted and discretionary uses appear to more closely align with the present uses and practices of the resort, states a letter from Wescott Consulting Group, written by Robert Wescott.

Comments and concerns were also presented by a representative of the Sloan family, who have developed Sunset Point and various county residential acreages in the county.

“I support a lot of what the LUB and MDP say,” says contract planner Richard Neufeld of North Star Planning of Edmonton. He has about 27 years of experience with municipalities, including Big Lakes.
“You definitely want to determine what growth is best for the county.”

However, he questions some of the policies and terms.

“In our view, community efforts to maintain agricultural lands and rural populations should be balanced with the fiscal realities of rural development in areas where land prices are not high,” says Neufeld, who spoke to council for 32 minutes.
“Having very rigid requirements for land-use plans does not allow for site-specific situations where certain studies or evaluations may not contribute anything meaningful to the planning exercise.”

He says he was asked to express his concerns with council to provide ideas on the draft bylaws that have the potential to impact lands owned by his client and the development potential for those lands.

“The land-use districts are very difficult to work with due to the load of information that is contained in them,” Neufeld says.
“Typically, the land-use district should give a reader most of the standard information that is required to make a decision as to whether a structure can be built on land within that district.”

As the draft bylaw reads, he says the reader “has to hunt” through the remainder of the bylaw to find basic information such as how many dwellings are allowed on a quarter section.

“It’s like anything goes, or it’s at the discretion of the development officer,” Neufeld says.

Among the additions to the LUB, the county introduces garden suites, allows a maximum of four hens and four ducks on residential property in hamlets.

Medical marijuana facility has been added, allowed in the rural industrial district as a discretionary use for the purposes to propagate, process, store or distribute marijuana for the medical purposes. Facilities are strictly regulated by Health Canada.

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