Special Areas development rules being updated, public can comment

Written by Stu Salkeld

An important document guiding development in east central Alberta’s Special Areas municipalities is getting an update and the board says it has plenty of public consultation opportunities planned.

Special Areas Board Communications Officer Meaghan Chostner contacted the ECA Review Sept. 8 with important information about the ongoing review and update of the Land Use Order (LUO), a document similar to what other Alberta municipalities would call a land use bylaw.

According to the Special Areas website, the LUO is, “A statutory document that regulates the use and development of land within the Special Areas.”

“The current LUO was last updated in 2015 and needed to be reviewed to help streamline regulations, reduce red tape and support clear and understandable development processes,” stated Chostner in a Sept. 8 email.

“The review process first began in 2021 and has included members of administration, development officers and planning staff from Palliser Regional Municipal Services.

“With the initial draft of the updated LUO now complete, Special Areas wants to hear from the public on proposed changes to this important municipal planning document.”
Chostner added the LUO is important to virtually all residents, producers and businesses.

“The LUO is a document that regulates development in the Special Areas,” she noted Sept. 11. “It can affect lots of different people, including residents, businesses and developers.

“The goal of the LUO update is to make sure this document takes into consideration a wide variety of different uses by businesses and residents throughout the Special Areas.

“We want to hear from the public on the proposed changes to make sure these changes help streamline development processes and make the LUO easier to read and understand.”

Looking at the primary proposed changes to the LUO Chostner stated in a Sept. 11 email the document is set to become modern and easier to use.

“Changes to the LUO have been made to make this document more flexible and easier to use for everyone,” she stated. “One of the most important goals of the LUO update was to make it easier to read and understand by all users, and to streamline development processes in the Special Areas.

“Some of the major changes include aligning the LUO with recent legislative changes and the Special Areas Board’s Municipal Development Plan (MDP); reducing red tape by adding more types of developments that do not need a permit including secondary suites, day homes, decks (up to 150 square feet), demolitions, accessory buildings outside hamlets, and some signs; allowing more subdivision and development without re-zoning including two dwelling units per parcel (up to three parcels per quarter section) for agricultural districts; increasing flexibility of development in hamlets by combining four hamlet districts into a single hamlet district that blends residential, commercial, and industrial uses; and simplifying regulations for renewable energy development by removing anything that is already regulated by the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER).”

Chostner stated the review was necessary for a couple of reasons. “The current LUO document was last updated in 2015,” she noted. “In the last eight years, there have been many legislative changes which have impacted the LUO. Beyond these required changes, Special Areas was also looking to streamline our development processes and make the LUO easier to read and understand.

“As a part of our red tape reduction project, Special Areas reduced red tape by a third as of March, 2023. We are committed to continuing to find ways to reduce red tape and improve public processes, including this recent review of the LUO and development process. This update helps make development documents and processes more user-friendly and easier to understand for users.”

Chostner noted public consultation is a vital part of this review. The public consultation includes both online and in-person pieces,” she stated. “We are looking for feedback on the proposed changes from residents, businesses and anyone else who believes they are impacted by these changes.

“This is a big document and we understand it takes time to go through it. We have posted the draft document on a dedicated page on our website (Land Use Order Review – Special Areas Board), along with a report which summarizes some of the major changes in this update.

“We want to make sure people have time to take a look at the documents ahead of our in-person public information sessions.

“Information sessions are being planned for early November in Consort, Hanna and Oyen. These will be drop-in style events that lets people stop in, learn about the proposed changes, and ask questions with our experts.

“We will have members of our project team on hand to answer questions and provide information. We will also be taking feedback at these events to share with the project team and elected officials.

More information on these events will be shared as we get closer to the events, including in local papers and on Special Areas website and social media,” added Chostner.

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.