Kneehill County approves agreement with Starland, but “concern” mentioned

Written by Stu Salkeld

Kneehill County council approved what is usually a low-key process with a neighbouring municipality, but this time it included a debate over wording concerns.

The approval of the Starland County/Kneehill County Intermunicipal Development Plan (IDP) bylaw occurred at the Jan. 24 regular meeting of council.

The proposed bylaw, which had passed first reading at a prior meeting, was presented by Barb Hazelton, manager of planning and development. She explained IDPs were originally mandated for municipalities which share a common boundary by the provincial government but the requirement was tweaked a bit later to allow municipalities, through mutual agreement, to waive IDPs.

“Originally Starland County and Kneehill County agreed to be exempt from the requirement to have an IDP,” stated Hazelton’s summary. “Upon further reflection and due to the potential increase for proposed development on marginal lands that many municipalities are facing, it was determined that a more regional approach to this plan area would be beneficial.

“Implementing a plan will ensure that identified areas will be viewed with a regional perspective. By adopting a plan that contains both guidelines for future uses as well as agreed dispute mechanisms, municipalities can reach agreement without negative impacts on either municipality.

“From the perspectives of both municipalities, enhanced management of the identified land within the IDP area will prove advantageous for the long-term interests of the municipalities and their residents.”

Hazelton stated that the original intention of IDPs was to encourage a collaborative approach to development. She also noted in her report that public hearings and joint meetings were held regarding the IDP.

“The IDP was adopted by Starland following their public hearing on Dec. 14, 2022,” stated Hazleton. “Their council did not have any issues with the draft as presented and public feedback was addressed during the hearing.

“Administration is recommending that the bylaw be adopted as presented.”

However, it seemed at least one Kneehill councillor did have an issue with wording within the IDP. When discussion began Coun. Ken King stated he was aware of at least one Kneehill councillor who had concerns with a word or wording within the IDP, but now that Starland already passed all readings of their bylaw it appeared that concern couldn’t be addressed.

King stated he felt councillors should discuss the issue before voting on any more readings of this bylaw.
County Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Mike Haugen confirmed in an email to the ECA Review Jan. 26 there was a concern regarding opportunity to comment on potential developments.

“There had been some discussion in committee about some of the wording in the resource extraction and renewable energy development section,” stated Haugen. “Specifically they contemplated changing the word ‘contemplate’ to something else in subsection 3 (…however there is an opportunity for a municipality to contemplate issues not previously considered by the AUC…).

“In the end they determined that ‘contemplate’ still achieved the intended purpose of giving each municipality the ability to raise any concerns for developments occurring within the plan area. Their overall concern was ensuring the ability to have notice and provide comment on potential developments.”
Hazleton acknowledged a concern had been voiced with some wording within the IDP and pointed out much of the lands included in this agreement are crown lands and that the opportunity for development in those areas was “very slim.”

Coun. Carrie Fobes noted she had a concern with wording in the IDP, saying she knows there is crown land in that area but there are also residential properties that belong to Kneehill County taxpayers that could be affected by future development.

Fobes stated she struggled with the idea developments could be passed, “…without even a conversation.”

King noted he was ready to vote on the bylaw but wanted to make sure everyone else on council was equally comfortable.

Coun. Laura Lee Machell-Cunningham stated she wasn’t so much concerned with the wording in question but the process itself.

Hazelton pointed out IDPs are reviewed every four years.

Reeve Jerry Wittstock noted the lands covered by the IDP are mostly crown and environmental site assessed (ESA), adding that there are no intensive livestock operation that could be affected in that area.

Councillors unanimously approved both second and third reading of the IDP bylaw.


Stu Salkeld
Local Journalism Initiative reporter
ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.