County to reopen public hearing on urban fringe issue

By Staff

Sturgeon County – Although scheduled to give third reading on an amendment to its Land Use Bylaw respecting intensive agricultural use in Urban Fringe districts, Sturgeon County Council took an unprecedented move to defer the matter until a public hearing could be reopened this fall.

Council held a public hearing on the bylaw amendment prior to second reading at its June 14 meeting. At that time two letters of support had been received, one from a private citizen and the other from the Town of Redwater. However, the presence of several affected landowners in the gallery June 28, prompted Councillor David Kluthe to request the reopening of the public hearing. As the Municipal Government Act requires the hearing to be advertised, County Council has set the hearing for 10 a.m. Aug. 23.

In the existing land use bylaw Intensive Agricultural Use with Farmstead is defined as “a commercial agricultural operation other than a confined feeding operation.” The designation includes nurseries, greenhouses, market gardens, tree farms and specialty crops.

The motivation behind changing from permitted to discretionary use is based on a number of intensive agriculture developments locating near neighbouring municipalities, country residential subdivisions and other locations.
If, following the second public hearing, the amendments are passed, intensive agriculture would still be allowed in Urban Fringe districts; however, they would become discretionary. Under the current bylaw any request for a development permit for intensive agriculture in those districts must result in a permit regardless of any concerns Sturgeon County or neighbouring residents may have.

Administration pointed out Tuesday morning the move from permitted to discretionary is not to discourage intensive agriculture but to give the County greater control over operations within Urban Fringe Districts, particularly when the agricultural operation could create conflicts in areas with larger population densities.

Sturgeon County’s Intermunicipal Fringe districts abutting the communities of Morinville, St. Albert and Edmonton are not affected by the proposed changes. The proposed amendments are to the Urban Fringe designation which includes County land abutting Redwater, Legal, Gibbons and Bon Accord.

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