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Red Deer County updates Land Use Bylaw to keep with the times

New solar power farm regulations added to bylaw

Red Deer County updated its Land Use Bylaw on Tuesday to keep it apace of emerging trends such as solar power.

The new bylaw updates a 2006 version and brings it in line with the recently adopted Municipal Development Plan and reflects the current economic picture and emerging trends and is designed to reduce red tape.

Solar power and electrical vehicles and charging stations are among the areas that required new definitions and matching regulations.

Some county residents have raised concerns with their councillors about the prospect of solar farms sprouting up on agricultural land. The Land Use Bylaw outlines the need for a reclamation plan, an agricultural component and setbacks from residences.

Airdrie-based company recently announced it hopes to build a flagship solar power electric vehicle charging station in Red Deer County that could eventually be part of a North America-wide network.

It is proposed for a 20-acre site just south of the Junction 42 truck stop at Highways 2 and 42 east of Penhold. It has not yet been approved by the county.

Assistant county manager Dave Dittrick said that it is important for the county to establish regulations around solar farms to give the industry guidance on how to develop facilities in the county.

Among other changes, to reduce red tape, development officers can now approve one-year time extensions for subdivisions developers, which will save them two to three weeks in approval times. It has also been proposed that more flexibility be allowed for use of recreational vehicles on agricultural lands.

Regulations around development setbacks from water bodies and slopes have also been clarified. There are also requirements for emergency response plans for developments adjacent to water bodies and on flood plains.

County resident Jody Young, who has battled against a gavel pit next to her home, told council the new bylaw fails to address concerns that have been raised about the county’s gravel overlay district and does not go far enough in protecting environmentally significant areas and water resources.

The bylaw also does not provide adequate notification of impending developments for nearby property owners, she said.

Dale Christian, who has lobbied to protect water resources in the county for decades, said in a letter to council that the creation of the gravel overlay district six years ago has harmed water quality, created noise and dust problems and led to crop and livestock losses.

Christian told council on Tuesday it is time to remove the overlay district.

No changes to the gravel overlay section of the Land Use Bylaw were proposed, but several councillors said council should take another look at that issue separately.

Mayor Jim Wood said the bylaw amendments reflect the changes that have happened since the last one was passed, the lessons learned and issues encountered.

“What we’re doing is fixing a lot of things that we identified that needed to be fixed today,” he said.

“If there are other topics we need to delve into there’s nothing stopping us from doing so.”

The amended Land Use Bylaw was passed 5-2, with Councillors Christine Moore and Lonny Kennett voting against.

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