Tag: land use bylaw

Grey rocks/gravel

Alberta Rocks gravel pit rezoning approved

MD of Pincher Creek council last month approved a rezoning application to expand a gravel pit in Villa Vega, a subdivision in the southwest corner of Division 5, near the intersection of Highway 3 and Highway 507.

The rezoning changes the lot’s land use designation from agriculture to direct control by council through an amendment to the MD’s land use bylaw, advancing the proposed expansion to the development permitting phase.

Craig Anderson filed the application in August on behalf of Alberta Rocks Ltd. Council unanimously rejected a similar application by the company roughly two years ago, according to Reeve Rick Lemire. 

Lemire reminded council that the MD hadn’t approved the original gravel pit when it was sunk into the ground about 15 years ago. The lot owner shut the pit down after a sternly worded letter from the MD, but Lemire says the land was never reclaimed.

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Alberta Rocks hopes to dig a new pit on the site to extend roughly five hectares. Anderson’s application promises to fill in the pit after it’s retired and then establish suitable ground cover to prevent erosion. 

The application says operations would run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. throughout the week, with no operations on weekends or statutory holidays. There will be no gravel crushing on-site. The application details a September 2019 sound test that showed “low sound levels” during pit operations. 

The application says the pit is “downwind” from most Villa Vega homes, but doesn’t include specific plans for dust mitigation. 

The application triggered a public hearing in October, minutes of which show Anderson suggesting he’d use dust-control products. 

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Five of Anderson’s neighbours spoke against the rezoning, raising concerns about noise, dust and unwelcome neighbourhood disruptions.

When council took up Anderson’s application on Dec. 13, Lemire said he couldn’t support the rezoning. 

“This project was denied two years ago,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, the same conditions are still there.” 

Lemire acknowledged that redesignating the lot under direct control gives council broad authority to impose strict conditions, but said the MD doesn’t have the resources to enforce compliance. 

“I just don’t think we have the manpower to do all that at this time,” he explained. 

Deputy reeve Tony Bruder also voted against the application, with Couns. David Cox, Harold Hollingshead and John MacGarva voting in favour.

 

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Short-term rental bylaw amendment deferred

Pincher Creek’s town council voted late Monday to defer its vote on a bylaw amendment designed to regulate short-term rentals within town limits.

Monday’s decision at chambers followed a lengthy public hearing that saw around 50 residents and at least one out-of-town investor pile into the gym at town hall, with many speaking for and against the amendment.

If passed, the amendment would put permitting and licensing requirements on upwards of 20 short-term rentals already operating in town through tourist accommodation websites like Airbnb and VRBO, and limiting STRs not lived in by their operators to five per cent of homes per residential street.

No such limit would apply to STRs with live-in operators. Bed-and-breakfast operators would not be allowed to operate STRs on their licenced premises.

Pincher Creek’s current land use bylaw doesn’t mention STRs at all, though in practice, town hall has granted business licences on an ad-hoc basis to operators that have applied, according to chief administrative officer Laurie Wilgosh.

The bylaw was drafted by Steve Harty of the Lethbridge planning commission, Oldman River Regional Services, which Wilgosh said provides planning and development guidance to Pincher Creek and several outlying municipalities.

 

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Reading his council report to start Monday’s hearing, Harty told the audience that the town’s STR industry needs some form of regulation amid growing concerns on the part of operators who want clear expectations from town hall and residents who say STRs are putting pressure on the town’s tight long-term rental and real estate markets. STRs are meanwhile subject to the province’s new tourist levy and the federal GST, Harty added.

Speaking for the amendment, Lane Heggie said he owned and operated a purpose-built STR on the 1000-block of Livingston Way, but doesn’t live in Pincher Creek.

Clear, reasonable regulations would serve the community well, he said, adding that operators should talk frequently with their neighbours to speedily resolve conflicts.

Lynn Brasnett, a longtime area Realtor and former rental property manager, pointedly reminded the audience that shutting out STRs would do little to boost the town’s rental stock.

“We have run a less than one per cent vacancy rate in this town for over 30 years,” she said, insisting that many STR operators would likely have to sell off their investment properties if they couldn’t market their services on Airbnb, or the like.

 

 

Japhia Epp told Monday’s hearing that her and her husband’s short-term rentals boost other small businesses in Pincher Creek. Photo by Laurie Tritschler
Japhia Epp told Monday’s hearing that her and her husband’s short-term rentals boost other small businesses in Pincher Creek. Photo by Laurie Tritschler
Pincher Creek residents Joan Brees, left,  and Chantal Laliberte chat before addressing Monday’s public hearing. Photo by Laurie Tritschler
Pincher Creek residents Joan Brees, left, and Chantal Laliberte chat before addressing Monday’s public hearing. Photo by Laurie Tritschler
Coun. Brian Wright looks on as Realtor Lynn Brasnett speaks at Monday’s public hearing. Photo by Laurie Tritschler
Coun. Brian Wright looks on as Realtor Lynn Brasnett speaks at Monday’s public hearing. Photo by Laurie Tritschler

 

 

Jenae Toews, who runs an STR in town with her husband, agreed.

“At this time in our lives, with my husband doing school, we more than likely wouldn’t be able to afford to keep the property as a long-term rental,” she said.  

Japhia Epp, a paramedic with Pincher Creek Emergency Services, said she and her husband own three long-term rentals and four STRs.

“We get a lot of families that come to Pincher Creek, and some of them say, ‘We would not come here if there wasn’t a place to stay like this.’ ”

Epp went on to say that she and her husband actively promote other local businesses to their Airbnb guests.

Coun. Wayne Oliver then asked Epp how she’d feel about living next to an STR.

“I am a neighbour to a short-term rental in this community,” she replied. “I do know the owners of the house and have regular communication with them. The idea is that, ‘If anything goes wrong, you let me know.’ ”

 

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Speaking against the bylaw, Chantal Laliberte stressed the town’s burgeoning housing crisis.

“If Pincher Creek was a town with plenty of long-term rentals and plenty of affordable housing, I wouldn’t be standing here, talking to you

“Housing is not like any other commodity. It’s not like gold, which is a commodity but is not a human right,” she said, drawing on the UN’s founding text, which enshrines the right to adequate housing.

Joan Brees then took the podium, listing 22 questions and concerns from residents she said weren’t able to attend the hearing. These ranged from the town’s apparent lack of authority to enforce whatever regulations council might approve to noise complaints, parking shortages and safety concerns by worried neighbours.

One resident who spoke to Brees said a vacation home on their block had been rented to 15 people “and kiddos” last summer. Residents don’t want to see “party people” take over their streets, Brees said.

 

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Sgt. Ryan Hodge, commanding officer at Pincher Creek RCMP, said Monday afternoon that he was not aware of any 911 complaints specifically related to disturbances or noise complaints at local STRs.

Pat Neumann, chief of Pincher Creek Emergency Services, said in a written statement to council that he would welcome the amendment’s regulations, noting that a map of active STRs would probably help fire and ambulance crews.

Presiding over council’s meeting at chambers, Mayor Don Anderberg and Coun. Oliver were quick to suggest putting off a final vote.

“Getting this right would be nice, right off the bat,” Anderberg said.

While he was personally in favour of regulating STRs, the mayor cautioned that council needed more time to deliberate.

Coun. Sahra Nodge countered that council should come to a vote, having just taken in “a very respectful, very informative public hearing.”

But the emerging consensus resolved that the amendment needed tightening up, ending in a unanimous vote to revisit the amendment at council’s next meeting, Monday, Nov. 28.

 

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