Lacombe County is considering tightening its bylaws to prevent agricultural land being carved up into numerous smaller properties.
Since a new municipal development plan was adopted in 2007, councillors have expressed concerns that the door has been opened too wide to development and multiple agricultural subdivisions could be approved on the same quarter section.
Under proposed bylaw changes, those who want to create a lot for a specialized or intensive agricultural operation, such as a greenhouse, must take the land from a quarter section that has not been subdivided previously. The new lot must be at least 10 acres.
Under the existing policy, new agricultural parcels could be created out of land already subdivided.
In a report to council, planners say they “share the concern expressed by some councillors that the current policy allows several agricultural subdivisions to be approved on a quarter section.”
County Reeve Terry Engen said if the changes are passed by council those who want to subdivide a bare quarter section will have to decide whether they want a single four-acre residential parcel or an agricultural parcel.
“That will be the first parcel out and the only parcel out,” said Engen. “You are entitled to one and that’s it.
“It’s going to be very interesting to see what the people have to say.”
Council is also looking at closing another perceived loophole in its bylaws. When the municipal development plan was revamped, restrictions were eased on subdividing out land “fragments” that are separated from the surrounding area by a natural or man-made feature, such as road or rail line.
Natural features that cause fragments can include lakes, rivers, streams, or other watercourses. However, there has been some question about what is considered a watercourse significant enough to create a fragmented parcel.
In some cases, low-lying land may only be under water for brief periods during the spring.
It is recommended that these watercourse areas must show signs that soil and vegetation are strongly influenced by water. The other test will be written confirmation from Alberta Sustainable Resource Development that it assumes title to the water body. All water bodies are considered Crown property.
First reading of the bylaw changes was passed last week and a public hearing is set for Jan. 14 at the county offices.