Frustrated developer appeals to county over ‘small farm’ idea

A Red Deer developer frustrated with “bureaucratic red tape” is appealing directly to Red Deer County’s mayor and council to hear him out.

A Red Deer developer frustrated with “bureaucratic red tape” is appealing directly to Red Deer County’s mayor and council to hear him out.

Serge Stelmack has proposed creating a subdivision near Sylvan Lake geared to small farm operations, such as dog or horse training facilities, you-pick operations or greenhouses.

It’s an idea that Stelmack argues fits in with the current agriculture zoning on the 60-acre site and would meet a local need for smaller scale farms.

County planners, though, will recommend rejecting the proposal, since it is considered a third parcel out on the property and under county rules it requires an area structure plan, said Cynthia Cvik, the county’s director of planning and development services.

The proposal is also seen as similar to a previous residential subdivision application for the site from Stelmack that was turned down by council earlier this year.

Cvik notes that the proposed development increases density and involves housing being built as part of a multi-lot subdivision.

Under county rules, an 18-month waiting period is required before coming forward with a similar application.

Stelmack argues the agricultural subdivision is not similar to the previous proposal to build 34 acreages. It is a different concept with 11 lots and the 18-month period should not apply.

He also doesn’t see the need for an area structure plan, saying it would be “unnecessary and costly and time-consuming plan that doesn’t serve any purpose.” Those plans also can’t be appealed, so if it is shot down at council he would have no other recourse.

Stelmack is taking his fight public. He plans to take out a quarter-page advertisement in the Red Deer Advocate making his case through an open letter to the mayor and council.

The letter points out that planning staff “seem highly resistant to our proposal” and asks council members to “review our application carefully and with open minds.”

County manager Curtis Herzberg sees the proposal to create small agriculture holdings as just an “attempt to try to get his land developed, in my mind.

“He’s trying to usurp the rules. He doesn’t like the answer he was given and he’s trying to come up with a new way to package it up to put it forward and either have it approved or something that he can appeal.”

Herzberg is also skeptical that there is a need for the small farm developments the developer envisions.

“We haven’t seen that. There’s plenty of land here that can handle those types of developments.

“I find it very interesting that this same land, in his first application, was being proposed for residential zoning because the applicant felt at that time it was not suitable for agriculture.”

Stelmack said he is planning to gather support for his proposal and encourage people to email the county mayor.

Under county rules, a subdivision decision must be made within 60 days and the application is expected to go before council in six to eight weeks.

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