The County of Paintearth held a public open hearing on Tues. April 5 regarding suggested changes to Land Use Bylaw 698-21.
Council held the hearing to a crowd of over 30 people, most of which were students from Gus Wetter School who attended to see what a public hearing was all about.
There were also four members of the public in attendance to share their concerns as well as four letters in opposition to the changes proposed.
Only first reading of the bylaw has been passed which triggers a public hearing to take place. This happened on Feb. 15.
Proposed amendments to the bylaw include the new definition of a building, striking ‘main’ from its description.
It would encompass any building or structure placed over or on a parcel of land for any use whether it be an accessory, agricultural, residential or other purpose in nature.
Dugouts have been redefined and given specific setback requirements at 125 ft. or more from an intersection to introduce safety measures in case there is a vehicle accident.
They were also cut back from 150 ft. to 75 ft. from a roadway.
The county has also suggested the addition of Sea-Cans or C-Can shipping containers with general regulations to allow for single or multiple units to be permitted.
The county has been seeing a trend for Bitcoin mining which is being contained in these types of containers as well as tiny homes so they felt it was important to give a first introduction of regulations to council and the community.
The term ‘grandfathering’ for non-conforming grain storage was removed and replaced with a section stating ‘Grain storage that does not meet the LUB requirements in this section will require a Development permit with a variance. Applications for variances to setbacks shall consider, among other things, proximity to roads, the type of road including backslope profile, road use and traffic, the type of storage bins and any anchoring or means of securing the bin to a base suitable for the development.’
Opposers were concerned the removal of the grandfathering of pre-existing bins located 60 ft. or closer to a roadway within the county could open up residents to problems as they would be required (if the bylaw passes) to submit a new development permit asking for a variance which could be denied and lead to further financial issues and/or court time to argue this decision, as seen with Dwayne Felzien’s case.
It must be noted that the county reduced the 150 ft. requirement to 60 ft. and 100 ft. for bin yards.
The county states that grandfathering is not a term used in the Municipal Government Act (MGA) which has prompted this removal.
Those who presented in opposition to the land use bylaw amendments were allotted five minutes each to speak.
Letters were received from Gerald Borville, Brenda Anderson, Donna and Gerard Fetaz and Joyce Webster.
Peggy Vockeroth was the first to voice her concerns in person. She spoke about the importance of not treating one group differently from another and shared that simple yet concise language was needed to avoid confusion, errors and extra costs to taxpayers.
Barry Jackson was next. His main concern was about the wording in the proposed changes as they were ‘cloudy’ in nature as the setbacks suggested interference with his home and many others within the county.
“If things get changed the way you guys are wanting it there is a number of homesteads in the county – people’s places over 100-years-old there when there was no roads – everything has been fine until now. If this goes through there will be a lot of discrepancies according to the bylaw.”
“My house is only 50 ft. off the road for 50 years.”
He added that at least half a dozen yards he knows of are set up on both sides of a road since they began, which are nowhere near the 100 ft. setback requirement being suggested.
Another taxpayer shared their concern about who may decide which bins are okay and which aren’t. He felt the case-by-case basis was not adequate.
People don’t want to speak out because they are scared they too will be targeted. We need to try to mend some fences here,” he said.
Next was Charlene Kudras who pointed out that the council chamber’s audio system needs to be used and turned up in volume so everyone can hear.
Administration shared that they are in the process of upgrading it but have been waiting upwards of eight months on the new equipment to arrive.
Kudras was concerned about the grandfathering removal as well and that transparency needs to be given, comparing Paintearth to County of Stettler.
“[The County] needs to start listening to the people,” she said.
Gerard and Donna Fetaz read the letter of Gerald Borville and Brenda Anderson into the record and then shared their comments afterward.
One letter submitted stated that the explanatory notes by the county to the changes regarding non-conforming was confusing.
The letter went on to state the notes imply that developments prior to the amendments that will become nonconforming must apply for another development permit asking for a variance that could be denied and then lead to substantial financial consequences when in fact the MGA clearly states that “If a development permit has been issued on or before the day on which a land use bylaw or a land use amendment bylaw comes into force in a municipality and the bylaw would make the development non-conforming, the permit continues in effect in spite of the coming into force of the bylaw.
Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Michael Simpson shared with the ECA Review following the hearing, “A statutory public hearing is an opportunity for persons who claim to be affected by a proposed bylaw to make representations to council as outlined in the MGA.
The MGA provides that after a public hearing, council will consider all the representations made at the public hearing and after considering any other matter council considers appropriate, council may pass the proposed bylaw, amend the proposed bylaw and pass without a further public hearing, or defeat the proposed bylaw.
“This matter is before council, and in due course council will decide how it will proceed.”
Letters can be found on the County of Paintearth website come next week.
The hearing concluded at 12:27 p.m. after all submissions were shared.
No decision was made after the hearing as the potential for second and third reading of Bylaw #706-22 will take place at a future meeting.