By Anna Smith
Harvest season is underway and looking to come and go within the next couple of weeks. In it’s wake, Cypress County anticipates a sweep of development permits from landowners, as they work on a review of the Municipal Development Plan.
The review was prompted when matters regarding a feedlot operation came before council, said planning supervisor Kaylene Brown, to evaluate some of the setback distances in documents pertaining to similar operations.
“It’s making it mandatory so that the Natural Resources Conservation Board (NRCB) ultimately has no decision authority over applications that come forward. It’s been thought that that perhaps may not be totally aligned with what council’s intention was,” said Brown. “We’re wanting to support adequate setbacks from existing adjacent developments, but we (are) still very much, I think, wanting for the NRCB to have the final say on those applications. So that’s really the crux and the intent of why we’re reviewing that bylaw at this time.”
These setbacks are vital for minimizing the impact these operations can have on adjacent land and the quality of experience for their neighbours as well as the potential for growth in the area, said Brown.
“They’re important in terms of the County to ensure that we’re allowing adequate buffer areas from areas where we may intend for future growth. So the NRCB through their process has a minimum distance separation, where they look at what’s existing,” said Brown. “So they’ll measure from the boundary of a proposed operation to the boundary of an existing residence. But what the County also wants to take into consideration is areas where there’s potential for future residential to expand. And those are the areas that perhaps the NRCB wouldn’t have the authority to take those things into consideration.”
This review comes right at the tail-end of summer, which means that it’s taking place right before many producers and landowners come away from their harvest season, and the County is expecting a seasonal influx of applications for development permits.
While the process for obtaining a permit can seem complicated, Brown assures that the staff at the County are eager to help with any development that someone may have in mind.
“So we always encourage folks that are looking at doing a development to contact our office, kind of early on in the prospecting process before they start investing too much time and funds into a proposal,” said Brown. “We’re always happy to talk to ratepayers to let them know what they might be up against; some applications are very simple, and there’s some that are more complex, where maybe studies are needed and that sort of thing.”
Once that groundwork is completed, there’s a development permit application that gets submitted to the County, said Brown, where once that application is submitted, the County would evaluate, determine whether it’s permitted or discretionary use in the bylaws, and then the staff have the authority to make a decision on it and then proceed from there.
“One of the things I think that we’re very proud of is that the County does have very quick timelines in terms of development permit processes, where we’re mandated to have decisions within 40 days of an application being submitted,” said Brown. She added, however, that with the time of year, due to the number of applications they’re anticipating, there may be slight delays.
“And depending on if they’re permitted uses or discretionary, there may be some applications that have to go to our planning commission for a decision. So we do expect longer timelines when it comes to those types, the commission only meets once a month. So sometimes that can extend the deadline for an approval,” said Brown.
Discretionary uses are also subject to a period in which those who would be affected by the development may appeal the decision, which can also extend the timeline, and if there are circumstances in which there must be a land use bylaw amendment, as decided by council, before things can proceed.
In contrast, there are also exemptions that do not require a permit, such as dugouts or corral panels on agricultural land. It is due to the many variations in this process that prospective developers are highly encouraged to contact the County early on in.
“All in all the County very much appreciates being able to work with the public. Like I said, we’ve got a great team here that’s always eager to help and to answer any questions that we can,” said Brown. “The land use bylaw, and the Municipal Development Plan can be a large document to kind of navigate and to try to understand so there’s a lot of times where we just simply have to try to explain. So we’re always here to kind of walk everyone through as much as we need to.”
The process, the Municipal Development Plan, and the specifics of the Land Use Bylaw can all be accessed on the Cypress County website.