Lacombe County will seek more public input on proposed land use bylaw changes that were met with a mixed reaction from some residents.
A proposal to reduce the size of a property to 10 acres from 40 acres where a second dwelling can be placed drew the most attention at a public hearing Thursday on county Land Use Bylaw amendments.
Brian and Marlene Kafara live on a 15.5-acre property and would like to see a second home allowed so one of their grown children could move back and help out.
Adding another home would have a positive financial impact on the county through additional property taxes as well as adding more people to support local businesses, said Brian.
Rick Hindley said easing the restrictions on second dwelling would help maintain the county’s population and would be a “net benefit.” The change might also reduce the demand for subdividing rural properties, which can be a thorny issue in rural municipalities trying to maintain farmland.
Former Lacombe County reeve Paula Law spoke strongly against the change, pointing out it was only five years ago the county reduced to 40 from 80 the number of acres where a second dwelling could be approved.
“The impact to the agricultural community is significantly higher,” she said of the 10-acre threshold. As many as 800 properties might be affected by the change, she added.
Law said opening the door to allowing more houses could increase the number of conflicts between those who make their living off of the land and those who are seeking scenic, quiet places to live outside urban communities.
“This change creates more issues than it is resolving,” said Law.
She also questioned the timing of the public hearing, which is happening at a time when many farmers are busy with seeding.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think you’re hearing from the agriculture community.”
Coun. Dana Kreil said given the “fairly significant change” proposed to second dwelling provisions, she would like to see how ratepayers felt, suggesting an online survey.
Coun. Brenda Knight also wants to see more consultation and noted she had received a number of calls from ratepayers complaining about the timing of the public hearing.
“We are talking about, what to me, is quite a change in the agricultural district. I just don’t feel we’re hearing from everyone today.”
Council voted to adjourn the public hearing to a later date so it can continue. County administration was also directed to prepare a report on possible consultation options.
Questions were also raised about a change that saw a definition and regulations created for data processing centres. They can be used for cryptocurrency mining, which involves a facility with generators powerful enough to run thousands of processors. The facilities have drawn noise complaints in some areas.
In 2021, Sturgeon County passed a bylaw regulating cryptocurrency mining operations, which often use former energy industry facilities to power their generators.
Data processing centres were not included in Lacombe County’s previous Land Use Bylaw, which meant the county had no way to regulate them, said county manager Tim Timmons.
Adding them to the bylaw is “providing additional protection to Lacombe County residents by way of regulation.”