Angry farmers oppose county fee

A controversial Red Deer County proposal to charge a $100 fee for farm buildings has been rejected.

A controversial Red Deer County proposal to charge a $100 fee for farm buildings has been rejected.

More than half a dozen county farmers spoke out against the new fee during a public hearing at Red Deer County Centre on Tuesday.

The proposal failed to go forward to second reading after council was deadlocked at 3-3. A tie vote kills the proposed bylaw amendment.

Many of those who spoke said the proposal to require a building or development fee for farm buildings was unnecessary and imposed another level of bureaucracy and expense on farmers.

Michele Brewster, who farms in the Penhold area, said it is hard enough for young people to get a start in farming without more regulations and costs.

“I really think nickel and diming people in this economy is not the right thing to do,” she said.

Former Red Deer County councillor Dave Hoar said the purpose of the permit requirement was unclear because farm buildings are not meant for public use.

“Public safety is a non-issue because these are not public buildings,” he said.

The county wanted the requirement for development or building permits — depending on the building’s size — to ensure they were in the right place on property, were safe and had not been adapted for other than typical agriculture use.

The amendment proposed that buildings 110 to 360 square feet require a building permit that costs $100. Larger buildings would require a $100 development permit instead.

In defending the permits, Mayor Jim Wood said $100 was a small price to pay to ensure buildings are where they should be and won’t require future, and more expensive, regulation relaxation requests.

“$100 is not a big cost,” he said, adding the permit is similar to those required for other buildings.

Wood, who farms in the Elnora area, said the permit is not about trying to tell farmers what to do on their property.

Coun. Christine Moore said the permit proposal is before council because there have been concerns raised about what buildings are out there in the county and whether they are all safe.

Coun. Philip Massier was against the amendment saying he hadn’t found any support among other farmers.

“I haven’t met a farmer that feels this is a requirement,” he said.

Also speaking against was Coun. Connie Huelsman, who said, “I do not see why we need another level of bureaucracy.”

Coun. Richard Lorenz was also against while Coun. Jean Bota voted for the amendment.

Red Deer County is not the only rural municipality taking a closer look at agriculture accessory buildings. Kneehill County is considering a similar development permit requirement.

In Leduc and Rocky View Counties, farmers must sign a declaration that the proposed accessory building will only be used for farm purposes.

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