How to manage farmland and residential development pressure ranks among the most debated topics around Red Deer County’s council table.
The county’s stated goal is ensuring farmland is preserved and not carved up piecemeal. At the same time, growing numbers of residents and businesses would like to plant their roots in the countryside.
“(Subdivision) is probably one of the topics that council has struggled with, as far as making changes goes, the most in the time I’ve been on council,” said Mayor Jim Wood.
“I know that across our province, every municipality is different.”
The county generally allows one parcel to be subdivided out of a quarter section, but council is often faced with requests for further subdivision for a variety of reasons.
“There are lots of reasons (to ask for subdivision).
“How do we ensure that we have appropriate rules in Red Deer County so we have places for people who want to be here while ensuring we don’t change the nature of our community to where it’s not going to function.”
An update of the county’s 2012 Municipal Development Plan is now underway and planners and council want to get public input on some of the most common development issues.
A survey has been mailed directly to all agriculture-zoned landowners, but anyone who lives or owns land in Red Deer County can participate. An online survey is posted on the Red Deer County website and will run until Nov. 30.
Respondents are asked if quarter sections should be allowed to subdivide out one parcel or two or more parcels. A third question asks if more residential lots or acreages should be allowed outside of hamlets, where the county has typically directed residential growth.
Respondents have the choice of agreeing, strongly agreeing, disagreeing or strongly disagreeing.
“These topics are some of the ones that come up the most,” said Wood.
And there is plenty of disagreement among rural residents about how much subdivision to allow before preserving farmable chunks of land is put at risk.
“Some people don’t want people near them and some do,” he said, adding subdivisions can significantly increase the number of people in an area.
Coun. Philip Massier agrees it is a thorny issue with many implications depending on which approach is taken.
“I’m torn actually. At the end of the day, I truly think there’s no one answer for the whole county.
“Some areas are good to intensify and in other areas it might harm agriculture.”