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Solar, bigger accessory buildings part of County’s new land use bylaw

Posted on March 22, 2016 by 40 Mile Commentator

By Tim Kalinowski
As reported a few weeks ago, Cypress County will be holding public hearings and debating its new land use bylaw during both the March 22 meeting and the April 5 meeting starting at 10 a.m. at the Cypress County council chambers in Dunmore. Marijauna medical grow operations are one area being discussed and regulated under the new bylaw. However, Cypress County is also making further adjustments to allow for greater commercial solar power generation in the area, in keeping with provincial and federal government priorities, and is increasing the allowable footage and height on accessory building sizes in region.
Solar power generation is likely to become part of the norm for most areas of Alberta over the next few years
“With the governments being proactive in alternative energy sources that are renewable energy, we wanted to have something in place, moreso on the commercial side of things,” explains Jeffrey Dowling, planning supervisor for Cypress County. “So if a person came in and said I have made an arrangement with a landowner, and we want to set up 25 acres of solar panels on a particular spot that we as a County are somewhat prepared to deal with that.”
Aspects of the bylaw include setbacks from existing agriculture operations, residential properties and county roads. Part of the regulations will also include standards limiting intrusive glare to neighbouring residences and commercial buildings by banning ground solar panels from being constructed eight feet above an existing grade. Dowling admits the measures are more proactive at this point than anything else.
“We haven’t been approached yet. We have had some small scale discussions with one or two companies but nothing has materialized as yet,” says Dowling.
Residential solar panel power generation is also exempted from the commercial generation permitting process if the panels do not exceed 25 square feet. The new land use bylaw spells out what is permitted or not for residential solar power generation.
As previously stated, another aspect of the newly proposed land use bylaw is an increase in accessory building sizes permitted under County regulations. Jeffrey Dowling says the County is trying to find the right balance between meeting the needs of its residents and keeping a hard distinction between commercial and residential building sizes.
“Every district has its own regulations so it is not one size fits all,” explains Dowling. “Obviously on a acreage you are allowed to have a larger sized accessory building than what you would in a hamlet. What we have seen in recent years is more people want to store things inside their garages or sheds than ever before. So having your boat parked outside or your equipment just isn’t the norm anymore. As a result, we have received a lot of applications for relaxations to increase the size of the buildings over and above what the current land use bylaw allows. The idea is by increasing the size of these accessory buildings that will cut down on the number of applications that have to go to relaxations.”
The allowed increase will be about 20 per cent in most cases, says Dowling.
“We are trying to find a balance between allowing for the needs of the people, which is these bigger buildings, and still trying to maintain the residential nature of these buildings. That was one of our concerns,” acknowledges Dowling. “That if we do allow the buildings to get too big you’ve got basically commercial sized buildings in residential districts. That is not what we are striving for. We are trying to keep the residential nature and appearance but still trying to accommodate.”
Copies of the new land use bylaw can be obtained in paper form at the Cypress County office or viewed online at the Cypress County website. Feedback from the public is welcome either in person or via correspondence at or prior to the final public meeting on April 5.

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