A controversial Lacombe County plan to guide development along the Hwy 2A corridor took an unexpected detour on Thursday.
The plan, which has been in the works for more than a year and undergone several major changes to appease landowners, was expected to be approved by county council.
But an amendment to allowable lot sizes was proposed that would put the brakes on approval because the change was considered significant enough to warrant taking the revamped plan back to another public hearing. Council voted to take the changes back to the committee overseeing the plan, which includes representatives from the county and Towns of Blackfalds and Lacombe.
The county has wrestled with the plan for more than a year. Among the difficulties has been addressing the concerns of landowners, who criticized early versions of the plan for being too restrictive and tying their hands when it comes to developing their properties. Some also argued that the plan put development costs out of reach of all but professional developers.
County councillors also had to meet the expectations of Blackfalds and Lacombe, which do not want small acreage-style developments emerge outside their boundaries in areas where they could put a crimp on future town growth.
The latest version of the plan allows landowners on both sides of Hwy 2A to subdivide their property into parcels 12 acres or larger without requiring urban-style communal water and sewer services.
Councillor Cliff Soper, whose division covers the plan area, proposed an amendment that would allow landowners west of Hwy 2A to subdivide their property into parcels as small as six acres. The rolling topography and swampy areas make smaller lot sizes a better fit for landowners, he suggested.
Allan Williams, the county’s director of planning services, said the larger lot sizes were designed to provide room for the two towns to expand in the future.
“This proposed amendment fundamentally conflicts with that premise.”
County commissioner Terry Hager said the problem with smaller lots is they are more difficult to subdivide into urban-style developments and would likely prove a “last resort” for developers.
Hager said council needs to take another look at the area and come to an agreement on how they see the area developing decades down the road.