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County fails to close subdivision loophole

An effort to close a loophole that was being used to get around agriculture subdivision rules in Lacombe County failed to pass council on Thursday.

Politicians were divided over the proposal to change the Municipal Development Plan to make it tougher for those trying to create agricultural subdivisions for small farm operations such as tree farms.

It came to light that of the 26 subdivisions granted since 2007 so people could set up tree farms, only four ever took root — two of which had already been tree farms before subdivision was granted.

In some cases, those involved applied for an agricultural subdivision — which must be a minimum 10 acres in size — if they didn’t qualify for a smaller acreage, or wanted more than the four acres allowed for acreage subdivisions.

Planning staff also found it telling that a dozen properties were sold once subdivision was approved.

To close the loophole, it was proposed that agricultural operations must be established for three years and operating at 50 per cent capacity before subdivision would be approved.

But some county residents said the changes went too far and would restrict the creation of small farm operations and the opportunities to give young farmers a start.

The three-year requirement would also cause financing hassles and there should be other ways to determine whether a small farm operation is established, some said.

Coun. Brenda Knight doubted the new measures would fix the problem.

“If you think you’re going to close loopholes, you’re not,” she said. The county would just see more people applying for the four-acre subdivisions, she predicted.

Coun. Paula Law agreed that might be the case, but said she would rather see four acres taken out of agricultural production than 10 acres.

The proposed amendments were lost on a tie 3-3 vote. Reeve Ken Wigmore and Councillors Cliff Soper and Law voted in favour.

Councillors Keith Stephenson, Dana Kreil and Knight voted against. Coun. Rod McDermand was absent.

pcowley@reddeeradvocate.com

 
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