Revisions to draft MDP further restricts residential development

Tuesday, Apr 24, 2012 06:00 am | LEA SMALDON

After more than a year of development, the draft Mountain View County Municipal Development Plan is nearing the stage where council could consider first reading, says the county’s interim planning director.

The latest changes to the draft - including the reduction of size of agriculture lots and restricting subdivision on good forage lands - were approved by the Policies and Priorities Committee last week.

Several councillors asked administration what the next steps to bring the plan forward would be.

“My preference is you look at the changed, consolidated package, bring it to the next P&P meeting and if you would like, you could recommend to council to pass first reading,” said John Rusling, interim director of planning and development services.

Mountain View County started a review of its Municipal Development Plan with the exploration of the MDP’s core directions and existing policies in January of 2011 and is at the point of refining revisions to the plan after several rounds of public consultation.

Preservation of agriculture land continues to be the dominant theme in draft revisions.

The changes made to the draft last week would further restrict residential development in both size and location.

Much of the county east of Highway 766 remains in the Agriculture Preservation Area - meaning more restrictive subdivision rules - while much of the area to the west is still being considered Multi-Lot Residential Development Area where less restrictive conditions apply.

But councillors have asked that the potential for development even in the Potential Multi-Lot Residential Development Area be further restricted.

New minimum ag parcel size

During last week’s P&P meeting, councillors agreed to increase the proposed minimum size for a new agricultural parcel to 80 acres (32.37 hectares) from the previously drafted minimum of 40 (16.19 hectares).

“From a logical perspective, nothing less than 80 acres is an ag lot,” said Reeve Bruce Beattie.

No subdividing high quality forage land

A new policy has also now been added to the draft plan which states lands in the Potential Multi-lot Residential Development Area that are considered high quality forage lands shall not be subdivided for low density residential development.

Farmland assessment records would be used as a tool in conjunction with historical and current on-site management practices to guide evaluation.

“The MDP would presently not allow county residential on class 1, 2, or 3,” said Rusling.

He added that it wouldn’t be as easy to permit or deny potential development just based on the soil classification.

“Management is such a big component in what you consider good forage land,” he said.

Planning’s conclusion, he said, is it needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Rusling said about five per cent of the county area is classed as 1,2,3 or ESA lands. Class 5 lands encompass about 28 per cent of the county area.

Beattie agreed that soil classifications, which take into account frost-free days, is a broad brush approach since circumstances have changed since the classifications were made decades ago.

“I know 40 years ago if we could grow turnips in the Sundre area we’d be lucky. Now we can grow a lot more because... we have more frost-free days,”

Maximum residential lots decreased

The maximum number of lots in a low density subdivision within the Potential Multi-Lot Residential Development Area has also been decreased in the draft.

Formerly set as two to four lots with the balance of the quarter as the fifth lot, the draft now reads two to three lots with the balance of the quarter as the fourth lot, resulting in no more than four titles in the section.

The proposed maximum total area taken from a previously unsubdivided quarter section for residential development has been decreased to 10 acres (4.04 hectares) from 20 (8.09 hectares).

And instead of the draft requirement that subdivision in this case can only be permitted if the landowner has held title to the quarter section for 10 years, it has now been reduced to five.

Higher lot residential development

Higher residential development of between four to 48 lots is still proposed to be directed to Growth Centres, identified as areas around Sundre, Olds, Didsbury, Carstairs, Cremona, and Water Valley.

The draft states major developments proposed outside of identified growth centres and the economic corridor may be considered if supported by an approved area structure plan and/or concept plan.

Div. 7 Coun. Al Kemmere agreed with the policy.

“When it comes to reclaiming a gravel pit and it may open the door for amenity-type development, I would like to see that,” said Kemmere.

New policy for Hwy. 2/27

A new policy has been added to the draft identifying the Highway 2/27 Area Structure Plan area east of Olds as a special policy area.

Higher density, with a maximum of up to 60 country residential lots per quarter section, is being proposed as permitted in the special policy area with connection to public water and sanitary systems paid for by the developer and/or lot owners.

If public water and sanitary systems are not available for future development, then the draft plan proposes a maximum of 48 lots per quarter section with minimum lot sizes of two acres.

“It does reflect our discussion over the last period,” said Beattie.

Other changes

Administration added its own changes to the draft as well.

It has suggested the maximum number of lots in the ag preservation area should be two lots per quarter section which equates to first parcel out.

And farmstead separations should be 10 acres in size with a minimal parcel size of two acres allowing for larger parcels where required under certain circumstances, administration has suggested.

Hamlets

A draft plan addition that drew discussion from committee members was administration’s inclusion of a policy on hamlets as appropriate locations for infill, small scale residential and local commercial developments. Consultation with the community should precede any application to the county, the draft addition states.

Kemmere suggested changing the name “hamlets” to something else as according to the provincial government’s definition, Mountain View County has no hamlets.

Examples of areas this could pertain to included Bearberry, Harmattan, and Dogpound.

“We wanted to ask the question because there’s a lot of existing development in these ‘hamlets’ and if someone wanted to add a lot, they’d bump into the (residential lot) caps, so the answer would have to be no,” said Rusling.

Good said the public hasn’t been consulted to the extent it should be on a policy concerning these types of communities and said he was hesitant.

“I don’t have any input from the public on this one to make a decision,” Good said.

The communities had been looked at in the past for further development.

“I know when we rolled it out last time to make these areas growth centres, it wasn’t looked on favourably,” Good said.

Div. 6 Coun. Paddy Munro said his support of the policy would be conditional.

“If the community supports it, I would support it but if you’re talking about major development, no,” he said.


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