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New Irricana land use bylaw seeks to redraw the map for community development

Irricana town council held a public hearing on Sept. 5 to take in feedback from citizens on a newly proposed Land Use Bylaw 007:2023 which could redraw the map in the community going forward.
The Classroom on Wheels Bus program is coming to Irricana May 31 for an afternoon of education on early fostering of reading, writing and language skills at the Irricana
A public hearing for Irricana's new Land Use Bylaw 007:2023 was held on Sept. 5.

Irricana town council held a public hearing on Sept. 5 to take in feedback from citizens on a newly proposed Land Use Bylaw 007:2023 which could redraw the map in the community going forward.

While many of the measures, such as the establishment of the positions of development officer and subdivision officer who would be appointed by administration to guide the development permit process in town and make recommendations on permit approvals to elected boards, are fairly standard for various jurisdictions in the region, the establishment of the land use category of Direct Control (DC) District, raised some objections in the community.

One letter submitted for council’s consideration during the public hearing made this objection abundantly clear.

“The proposed Direct Districts will lead to authoritarianism by councillors and the Town administration governing, with no public input, and the council and Town administration governing as they please,” wrote one concerned citizen.

Direct Districts are used by many municipalities to provide a category of land use which falls just outside of the normal land uses for a community, or are considered to be for the public good despite falling outside of normal land use categories. It allows for elected councils and development authorities to customize development permits to meet an exceptional or specific need, and provides flexibility to approve these atypical uses.

Opponents who wrote in during the Sept. 5 public hearing expressed their concerns the new DC District could be used by council to approve a controversial industrial incinerator project in town despite vocal public objections to the project, if passed-- although there does not appear to be any proposed bylaw stating that intention listed on the Town's website at this time.

Besides the Direct Control District category, the 007:2023 bylaw also authorizes, if approved by council, the establishment of eight other land use districts  in Irricana: Residential Single Detached (R-1), Residential Two-Dwelling (R-2), Residential Multi Unit (R-MU), Residential Manufactured Home District (R-MH), Central Business District (CBD), Light Industrial (I-L), Public Park, School and Recreation (PSR) and Urban Reserve (UR) for future development needs.

The new land use bylaw, also typical when compared to other local municipalities, seeks to enhance the powers of Town administration to make development permit approvals or rejections based on policies laid out by the elected council regarding land use districts, and permitted uses for those land use districts as governed by statute. 

Administration as the development authority looks at an application for a development permit, examines where the applicant wants to establish his or her home, institution or business, references permitted uses and restrictions under the land use bylaw districts, and makes a recommendation to approve or not approve a permit based on those guidelines.

Under Bylaw 007: 2023, the Town will also establish a council appointed Municipal Planning Commission to oversee the development authority to ensure it is acting properly within the statutes of the land use bylaw, and a Subdivision and Development Appeal Board where rejected applicants can appeal their case and seek to overturn the development authority’s decision. The body would also allow any member of the public affected by the approval of a permit to appeal it in a special hearing.

For any Direct Control District designations, those would have to be approved by Irricana town council, and would be subject to a public hearing where any residents opposed or in favour could come before council and speak directly to councillors about their concerns before any decision is rendered.

During the Sept. 5 public hearing on Bylaw 007: 2023, which was also simultaneously live-streamed on Zoom, only one resident showed to voice their objections, besides the two letters in opposition received in advance.

According to Irricana CAO Doug Hafichuk, council will likely render a decision on Land Use Bylaw 007:2023 at its Sept. 18 council meeting or at a council meeting in early October. Confirmation will appear in the council agenda prior to the meeting where the decision is to be made. Those agendas appear on the Town of Irricana’s website, and can be accessed by clicking on the "Municipal Government" tab. 

Those wishing to view the complete proposed bylaw can do so by looking at Schedule A under the Sept. 5 agenda package.


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