Terms of Reference and Public Engagement Plan

The Council of the Municipal District of Willow Creek No. 26 has confirmed its interest in proceeding with review of the Land Use Bylaw within the municipality.

The primary intent of the land use bylaw project is to review the fundamentals and regulations of the land use bylaw, endeavoring to increase the flexibility and adaptability by reducing regulations where they are not necessary. Equally important, we will be improving the document’s usability and reviewing the related processes to improve our citizen’s experience.

To ensure that the process of review is thorough and review a robust public engagement and consultation plan will be undertaken as part of the process of review. This Terms of Reference outlines the current state of the Land Use Bylaw, the legislation, history, purpose, criteria, process and timeline for the project. 

The Purpose of Updating the Land Use Bylaw

Municipal District of Willow Creek No. 26 Land Use Bylaw No. 1826 was adopted in April 2019.  Since that time 28 amending bylaws have been adopted including 26 redesignations of land use, 1 annexation and extensive solar energy system and wind energy conversion system amendment have been undertaken.

The actions items included in this extensive land use review include:

  1. Review the current Land Use Bylaw to align with the Municipal Districts long-term direction from the Municipal Development Plan;
  2. Align the Land Use Bylaw with regional and provincial policies, regulations and legislation that have come into effect since the bylaw was last updated;
  3. Integrate the former Town of Granum land use bylaw into a single municipal land use bylaw;
  4. Ensure that the land use bylaw is transparent, consistent and easy to read;
  5. Update administrative matters and definitions;
  6. Ensure that the land use bylaw will meet the needs of the community for the next 10 to 15 years;
  7. Undertake the land use bylaw review and development process in a manner which meets the requirements of the Municipal Government Act, the expectations of citizens of the M.D. of Willow Creek and the fiduciary responsibility of Council. 
  8. Other matters that will ensure the bylaw remains current and relevant   

The Municipality

The Municipal District of Willow Creek (MDWC) is located in the Southern part of Alberta, occupying an area of 4,485 square kilometers with a population of 6,180 (2023 Census). Reaching from the Porcupine Hills in the west to Vulcan County and the Lethbridge County in the east and from Foothills County in the north to Cardston County and the Kainaiwa/Blood Tribe in the South the Municipal District of Willow Creek No. 26 boasts an enviable diversity of terrain, people and economic opportunity.

Primary agricultural production is the leading industry within the M.D. of Willow Creek. Blessed with rich agricultural land, the municipality is populated by multi-generation farm and ranch operations.  Grain, forage and oilseed production account for the majority of crops grown within the municipality.  Cow / calf, beef feedlots, pork and poultry operations are prevalent.

The Municipal District is a rural community that is characterized by a large geographic area with low density development except for areas that include the Hamlet of Granum, Moon River Estates, Orton, Woodhouse and Parkland along with numerous grouped country subdivisions and Hutterian Brethren Colonies which have higher population densities than is typical in our rural community.

Four towns are also located within the M.D. of Willow Creek Including: Claresholm, Fort Macleod, Nanton and Stavely. These Towns each have a land use bylaw and other statutory documents which are administered by their own elected representatives. The M.D. of Willow Creek has intermunicipal development agreements with all rural and urban municipalities where a common boundary exists.

The Legislation

As outlined in the Municipal Government Act there is a hierarchy of legislation that applies to the rules and regulations for land use legislation in Alberta.  Each level of legislation or bylaw takes precedent over bylaws which rank lower in legislative standing.

Alberta Land Stewardship Act – South Saskatchewan Regional Plan

The Act enables government to provide direction and leadership in identifying current and future land -use objectives of the Province including economic, environmental and social objectives while respecting private property rights. The Act provides for the coordination of decisions concerning land, species, human settlement, natural resources and the environment while taking into account cumulative effects of human endeavors and other events.

The South Saskatchewan Regional Plan establishes a long-term vision for the South Saskatchewan Region and aligns provincial policies at the regional level to balance Alberta’s economic, environmental and social goals. The regional plan also includes strategies for responsible energy development, sustainable farming and ranching, recreation, forest management, and nature-based tourism. It has been established under the Alberta Land Stewardship Act, and the Land Use Framework. This version of the SSRP was amended in May 2018, and came into effect on May 31, 2018.

Municipal Government Act

The Municipal Government Act (MGA) provides the legislative framework to guide operations of municipalities in Alberta.  The MGA empowers municipalities with the authority and flexibility to provide services in the best interest of the community.  The MGA requires all municipalities to have a Land Use Bylaw and provides guidance on the structure of Land Use Bylaws but it is up to the individual municipalities to create and administer their own documents.

Municipal Development Plan

The Municipal District of Willow Creek’s Municipal Development Plan (MDP) is a high-level plan that establishes a vision and guides growth for the Municipal District over the next 30 years.  To help foster effective and efficient growth within the M.D. the MDP is aligned to address community priorities.

Area Structure Plan

An Area Structure Plan (ASP) is a statutory document that muse be passed by municipal bylaw. The ASP proposes a sequence of development for a specific area, the future land uses, the density of population, and the general location of transportation and public utilities.  In our community the Area Structure Plan is typically used for large grouped country residential or grouped country commercial / industrial projects.

Land Use Bylaw

The Land Use Bylaw is an important tool that the municipality has to implement the vision, goals and policies of the Municipal Development Plan.  A Land Use Bylaw controls development by categorizing properties into various land use districts. It prescribes how land and buildings can be used in those districts and establishes a system for issuing development permits.

Regulations in the Land Use Bylaw are directed by the M.D.’s Municipal Development Plan, Intermunicipal Development Plans that the M.D. has with adjacent municipalities and Area Structure Plans that have been adopted within the M.D.

Over the next six months the Land Use Bylaw project will include references to all of the legislative frameworks described above.  Municipal and Oldman River Regional Service Commission Planning staff will work collaboratively together with Council and M.D. citizens to develop policies and land use regulations that are shaped by and aligned with one another.

Subdivision and Development Policies

Every land use bylaw includes policies and administrative references which assist in the application of subdivision and development application decisions.

Land Use Bylaw Project Process

Phase 1 – Research and Draft

Project Kick-Off – Fall 2023 / Winter 2024

Council to review project terms of reference and public participation plan for the Land Use Bylaw Review Process and will review the current Land Use Bylaw outlining changes to the current bylaw to be proposed as part of the update process. Draft and initial plan for review.

Phase 2 – Review, Refine, Share and Discuss

Council and Municipal District Staff will engage with the community to seek feedback on proposed Land Use Bylaw changes.  Focused engagement sessions will seek to answer questions related changes to the Bylaw including: subdivision policies, land use district permitted and discretionary uses, how the bylaw seeks to preserve agricultural land and the ways a new bylaw will become more user friendly and understandable.

Draft Land Use Bylaw Regulations will be available for review and discussion by the public. Engagement will include the following attributes:

  • A dedicated web page for the Land Use Bylaw project which will provide information and feedback mechanisms for public engagement on each major issue. This website will provide a record of the issues, drafts, revisions and history of the project for future reference. The website is found at the following link: http://whatshappening.mdwillowcreek.com/
  • A segmented discussion of each major issue to permit a full and detailed review and discussion by Council and citizens. This will encourage an understanding of the issues by all parties and community derived solutions.
  • Social media, newsletter and local newspaper advertising to distribute information and solicit feedback.
  • Public Open House sessions across the M.D. to evaluate the Land Use Bylaw
  • A Public Hearing prior to adoption

Phase 3 – Engage and Revise

The Council will review public feedback received as part of the engagement process and, utilizing this information, will review a summary of public feedback and will undertake Council discussions for the purpose of refining the details of the new Land Use Bylaw.

Engagement will be facilitated through a dedicated web page, social media, newsletters, newspapers and public open houses.

Phase 4 – Present Findings

Following the completion of the Public and Council review of the revised Land Use Bylaw a draft Land Use Bylaw will be published for Council, stakeholder and Public review.

Phase 5 – Circulate and Advise

During this phase the draft Land Use Bylaw will be circulated to neighboring municipalities and other external stakeholders for review and comment prior the public hearing.

Phase 6 – Finalize and Approve

A public hearing will be scheduled and advertised for the purpose of considering a new Municipal District of Willow Creek Land Use Bylaw.   At the public hearing the general public and stakeholders may provide input and feedback on the final version of the Bylaw.

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