County changes subdivision rules, rejects applications

Red Deer County Council didn’t waste any time giving a new approach to agricultural subdivisions a test run.

Red Deer County Council didn’t waste any time giving a new approach to agricultural subdivisions a test run.

Only moments after passing an updated Municipal Development Plan, which makes it more difficult to carve out small parcels from previously unsubdivided quarter sections, council rejected a pair of applications to do just that on Tuesday.

Provisions for allowing quarter section owners to subdivide out small three-to-five-acre undeveloped portions was the most contentious part of the Municipal Development Plan.

At a public hearing last month, council heard from about a dozen landowners who urged the county to close the door on the subdivisions.

It was argued that they fragment valuable agricultural land and increase the likelihood of conflict between farmers and acreage owners.

In changes approved unanimously on Tuesday, the section on first-parcel-out subdivisions emphasizes that “preservation of agriculture will be the primary objective” in reviewing applications.

Successful applications must meet a list of criteria. One of the key tests is that the subdivision doesn’t have a negative impact on nearby agricultural operations.

Council opted not to prohibit the subdivisions outright because some agricultural producers favour them as a way for the next generation of a farm family to get a toehold in the business.

Mayor Jim Wood said it’s important that the county’s plan provides an opportunity for young farmers to get a start without having to come up with the cash to buy an entire quarter section.

“I believe that we are trying to come up with a compromise here that works,” said Wood.

The plan addresses that by noting that it is understood that in some “special circumstances” allowing subdivision helps preserve agricultural operations, “however, such circumstances are the exception rather than the norm.”

Council had two first-parcel-out applications to consider later in the meeting.

The first, a proposal to carve a five-acre parcel out of 155 acres was rejected after concerns were raised by a nearby beef operation owner about locating a residential acreage directly across the road.

A future acreage owner may not understand the sounds and smells that are associated with a beef operation and their pets may disturb livestock, says a letter to the county.

A second application, on the eastern edge of the county about 18 km northeast of Elnora, was also nixed.

Coun. Dave Hoar questioned how allowing the property to be subdivided would benefit the agricultural community.

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