By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News
Lethbridge County’s planning and development department had a busy 2018.
During their regular Feb. 14 meeting, Lethbridge County council reviewed the 2018 Year End Report from the planning and development department.
The report highlighted the various projects, developments, subdivisions and planning activities the county had undertaken in 2018.
Hillary Janzen, senior planner for the county, said they had a “fairly busy year” in 2018, which was ”good for the county”.
According to the report, an inventory has been completed for all county owned ponds and related infrastructure.
Janzen said they were still looking at their fire pond policy.
“We have completed an inventory of the county owned ponds and hydrants, and that work will be carrying on in the spring,” said Janzen. “We have to do some testing of those facilities, which will inform our policies moving forward.”
Reeve Lorne Hickey asked if the county’s fire ponds, after a certain period of time, became public utility lots.
Janzen said the reason they began investigation them because there’s been a “mish-mash” in how they’ve been dedicated.
“Some of them of PULs, Public Utility Lots, some of them are on private land but the hydrants are on public properties, so that’s where we have a mixing of jurisdictions,” said Janzen.
“That’s typically the two that we’ve seen, or sometimes we have fire ponds that have no hydrants and they’re all on private property, so we have no control. So we wanted to create a policy that clearly identified how we would deal with them in the future, but we have to look at the existing ones to find out one, are these hydrants operational, do they even work? And then to have something in place so that when we’re looking forward at those; how are we maintaining them, are we going to decommission some over time because they’re, you can’t fix what they are. But we’ll be dealing with those in that policy.
“If we come to ones in residential areas that we feel may be not as viable anymore, we’ll be talking to residents in those areas to discuss that matter with them.”
Hickey also asked who maintained them if they were on both private and public property.
“Our utilities crew have been doing some of the maintenance on them, but there are requirements under NFPA that we have to do certain testing and certain other requirements,” said Rick Bacon, director of municipal services for the county. “It’s quite time consuming and has to be done annually.
“We’ve been trying to come up with a way to generate some revenue to pay for that maintenance also, because on a connected system, typically the hydrants, there’s a fee to every service to pay for those hydrants on the system. In a rural setting, there is no fee for maintenance for those types of utilities. So the question was asked to assessment — does that increase the property value — and they told us no. So there’s no way to generate revenue to pay for our crews to go out, and if we add more and more fire ponds, there’s more and more onus, and more time-consuming tasks that have to be done by our crews. So that’s part of where our investigation is going, in trying to figure out what type of mechanism you need to pay for these fire ponds.”
County CAO Ann Mitchell said another part of the issue was they didn’t have an inventory of the fire ponds till 2018, which Janzen confirmed.
When asked how it affected insurance rates, Janzen said they contacted their insurer to ask how resident’s insurance rates would be affected if the county decommissioned a fire pond in their area, and were told it wouldn’t affect it.
“The reason for that is it’s not the proximity to a pond that’s the factor on the insurance, it’s the proximity to an actual fire station, where the actual equipment is coming from,” said Janzen. “Regardless if you have a fire pond, if you’re 20 minutes from a fire station, you’re still 20 minutes from a fire station. That pond isn’t doing you much good, or that hydrant is doing much good just sitting there, because someone needs to hook onto it to actually fight the fire.”
The county had also met with the Municipal District of Willow Creek, Vulcan County and the County of Warner regarding completing their Intermunicipal Development Plans, and they will be meeting with Cardston County and the Village of Barons this year to start discussion on their IDPs. Mitchell asked if a committee has been set up for the Barons IDP, to which Janzen replied no. The county’s IDP with Barons had been delayed getting started as Barons had to first approve their Municipal Development plan, which was approved in the fall.
While there was a decrease in development permit applications — down from 211 in 2017 compared to 178 in 2018 — it was not unique to the county, as there were several media reports on the construction downturn in 2018 being linked to the economy. However, the approximate cost of development in the county remained consistent at $52 million, thanks to several large projects such as the City of Lethbridge recycling plant ($10.5 million), Huntsville School ($7 million) and large expansions of existing agriculture businesses.
There were 10 redesignations applications — a number Janzen called “quite a lot, I feel, for this past year” — and three area structure plans — two which were approved, and one that was refused upon second reading.
The annexation request from the Town of Coaldale was approved by the Municipal Government Board and came into effect on April 1, 2018. IDPs have been approved for the Coaldale, Town of Picture Butte and M.D. of Taber. The county is currently discussing the IDP with the Town of Nobleford to “clear up a few things”, as it was approved prior to the MGA being updated. Janzen said she expects talks with the Town of Coalhurst later this year, as well as with Coaldale, as they need to do an IDP update because of the annexation.
Referring to the controversy around the proposed high school and rec complex in Coaldale, Hickey noted that one sticking point in that was that the town never formally adopted the Integrated Development Strategy (IDS).
“I’m kind of curious how that actually works, when that was actually part of our plan, if plans are now changing for their use of that land within that zone, that we got funding for,” said Hickey. “So I’m curious as to how that fits in.”
Janzen said she wasn’t here when the plan was created, but said it was never formally adopted by “any of the municipalities”.
“It was discussed, but it was never adopted as a plan to move, to really go forward. It was a study that was done at a very high level to kind of generally look at… the Malloy and where we should be locating drainage systems,” said Janzen. “I think that particular document, because it was so high level there and there was no implementation plan contained within it really, there was very little, for both municipalities — and I think the SMRID was also involved in that — to really move forward. But when they did the Malloy projects next to the Town of Coaldale, that is was when I would consider that the implementation occurred, is that they did detailed design studies to figure out how that drainage is doing to be handled. So that larger framework of a document, I think the intent of it was applied when the Malloy Drain studies were completed. But things change when you look on the ground. Instead of the bird’s eye view, when you’re looking on the ground and figuring how things are going to work, the concepts change.”
Janzen said she thought a lot of weight was put on the IDS that may have been “misplaced”. It was something that administration should look and consider how it was still relevant to the county.
The county also reviewed and responded to 26 intermunicipal referrals and 20 Natural Resources Conservation Board (NRCB) referrals. Coun. Morris Zeinstra asked if how much consultation the NRCB has with the county in regards to a new feedlot going in. Janzen said they get referred on any new or expanding confined feeding operation in the county. Zeinstra also asked if administration had heard anything about the NRCB enforcing dust control, which Janzen said they hadn’t, but the NRCB might have gotten a few complaints about it and are now investigating it.
Council unanimously accepted the report for information.