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County implementing new reserve land policy

Posted on November 26, 2019 by Sunny South News

By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News

Lethbridge County has a new policy on reserve lands.

During their regular Nov. 21, Lethbridge County council discussed a proposed land reserve policy.

Policy 179 — the Management of Lethbridge County Environmental and Municipal Reserve Policy — aims to provide oversight to the management of environmental or municipal reserve land in the county.

While the county has obtained these lands through various subdivision projects, there has been no official oversight policy regarding the management of these properties.

Under the MGA, the county may request that a landowner who is subdividing land set aside a portion of their property as municipal and/or environmental reserve.

Municipal reserves are lands that are acquired by the municipality for spaces such as parks or other recreation purposes.

Environmental reserves are lands that generally remain in their natural state, and provide public access to areas such as water bodies and water courses. All reserve lands are owned and managed by the municipality.

“We really haven’t had any guiding documentation other than what is in the Municipal Government Act; why we do it, how we do it, if we can dispose of it and maybe some management aspects of those lands. Right now, we kind of just take them and they get forgotten, and every once in a while someone will call and say there is someone dirt biking on a county-owned parcel,” said Hilary Janzen, senior planner for the county.

“This draft policy provides county council and administration with a clear direction on what constitutes either a municipal or environmental reserve, the disposal of reserve lands, when municipal or environmental reserve land is required and the management of those lands going forward.”

Janzen noted that there will be a cost for putting up signage on existing reserve sites and maintenance for reserve lands.

“We do this, I know with the parks we already do maintain them, so that’s not an additional cost. That’s a cost that’s already in our, I think our ag-service area, does all of maintenance on our parks,” said Janzen. “We already monitor the lands, may be just a little more oversight in terms of making sure we know where they are, what they are, you know, making sure that people recognize the importance of these lands and they are accessible to the public, but we want to make sure there’s no offsite, off road vehicles driving through them, like ATVs or dirt bikes, that they’re there for the public’s enjoyment for everybody.”

Reeve Lorne Hickey asked if municipal reserve land could be considered environmental reserve land.

“Municipal reserve is your parks and recreation, so that’s where you will get your opportunity to, say, have trails for motorized vehicles. In certain municipalities, they might want to do that,” said Janzen. “Environmental reserve is suppose to be left in a natural state, so it’s not, you’re not suppose to really have anything in there. You can build like a walking path, but you don’t want to have motorized vehicles in there disturbing the natural state of coulees in the county. So the difference is one is more of an active recreational space, and the other is more of a passive recreational space.”

Coun. Rob Horvath asked how much of a subdivided land the county would take.

Janzen said for municipal reserve, it was up to 10 per cent. She noted that for most subdivision applications they generally don’t take land but take cash in-leiu, as they don’t have a “large need” for recreational spaces in areas such as a country residential development.

“Where people have two-acre parcels, don’t always need a park space to complement that. So we take the cash more often than not. Where we would take municipal reserve as land would probably be in a hamlet.”

Janzen also said they could take as much environmental reserve land as needed for the area they’re looking to protect.

CAO Ann Mitchell asked how it fit in with the Group Country Residential Study survey. Janzen said for most of the group country residential developments, they haven’t been taking municipal reserve land, but they could consider it to help advocate for community building or creating a congregational park space in a development.

Council unanimously passed a motion to approve Policy 179.

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