Updates and new provisions to the Municipal District of Pincher Creek, Alberta’s land use bylaw could be in place before the end of spring; at least that’s the target of the MD’s council.

At a March 6 public hearing on the matter, residents were given the opportunity to share concerns or suggestions they might have before its passing.

With several new additions involving recreational tourism, many wondered what the new document might look like and what its implications would be for the countryside.

Although a resident and property owner in the MD, local realtor Janet Jones attended the meeting to have some of her clients’ questions answered.

“Can I make a campground on my property? Can I build three houses on my three acres? Can I have seven tiny homes on my ten acres? Those are the kinds of questions that I am interested in,” she said.

Following the meeting, Jones confirmed she received the answers she was looking for.

“After having read the land use bylaw, being familiar with it from 15 years of real estate, yes, I’m satisfied with the answers they gave me.”

Another resident, Sophie LaRocque, had questions about density development and whether the MD has a plan to address possible overcrowding.

“I was curious about if [they] considered hard guidelines or soft guidelines around density thresholds when it comes to any kind of development or any kind of permits, as there’s inevitable growth in the community, especially with them processing a huge amount of incoming applications with the new bylaw,” she said.

“Since we don’t know the current density of the variety of businesses that are currently operating without business licences [not a current requirement in the MD], I have concerns that proceeding in a strategic fashion might be difficult when that information is not available.”

“I think my interest lies on the landscape level, how development is being managed,” added Emma LaRocque, Sophie’s sister.

“There’s going to be a lot of pressure in the future regarding tourism. We grew up on a ranch (near Twin Butte) and when we look at the future, we need to diversify.”

The family has established tourist accommodations to help supplement the ranch’s income.

Sophie said she liked the response given when Division 1 Coun. Tony Bruder pointed out that area structure plans address such concerns, where the hamlet of Lundbreck falls under a different set of rules than another area in the district might.

For Bruder and his fellow council members, though, it’s a balancing act when putting together or making changes to any bylaw.

“There’s always going to be some people that don’t necessarily agree with what we do, and I think people generally understand where we’re coming from and agree with the general direction we’re taking,” he said.

He strongly believes the modifications will bring clarity to the application process.

“To me, the big thing now is, we have some definitions for some of these things we never had defined [in the current bylaw], like campgrounds, Airbnb, country inns, that kind of stuff,” Bruder explained.

“So, now when we get an application, we can say ‘OK, you fit here and here’s what you have to do’ instead of getting an application and going ‘Hmm, how can we fit this in?’ ”

A relatively new resident to the MD, Don Hill and his family recently moved here from out East. His family is looking at possibly producing herbs with their parcel of land.

“What I was really pleased to learn is that the council seems to be in the corner of landowners and that they’re pretty concerned about some of the bylaws that we’ve seen proposed in other areas of the province that are incredibly restrictive to agriculture and to farmers,” Hill said.

He also likes that the bylaw is, in his words, “a living document.”

“What we don’t know today, and we find out tomorrow, we can still talk about it,” Hill added. 

But as residents consider the potential for new development, like a campground or bed and breakfast as close as their fenceline, another concern brought up was the short time frame — seven days in some cases — that neighbours have to research and put together a presentation that might oppose a pending proposal.

That cannot be changed overnight, if at all.

“We’re handcuffed by the MGA [Municipal Government Act],” Division 2 Coun. Rick Lemire said. The act, which dictates procedures, is mandated by the Alberta government.

“The only thing we might be able to do is table it, I guess, and then bring it back for more information,” Lemire said. “It’s pretty tight timelines unless the MGA changes. It’s pretty tough for us.”

Lemire feels campgrounds will lead the charge in permitting and is curious if these new permit applications might be more time consuming.

He maintained that other counties, like Cardston, are watching Pincher Creek’s lead.

Currently known in its unaltered state as Bylaw 1289-18, the “18” signifying 2018, the document will become Bylaw 1349-23 once formally passed, but it will need second and third readings to become law.

By Dave Lueneberg, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 18, 2024 at 15:31