Outlined in orange is the land inside the proposed Morningside area structure plan that would not be available for further or expanded CFO development due to the one and two mile exclusion zones from residential development and the town of Ponoka. Current CFOs identified by the black diamonds. Image: Ponoka County

Ponoka County plans may restrict confined feeding operations

Area structure plans for northwest of Ponoka, Morningside headed to public consultation stage

Proposed land use and development plans for two regions of Ponoka County will soon be in front of the public.

It’s expected the issue will generate some vocal responses on both sides of the issue.

Ponoka County council approved first reading of area structure plans (ASP) for the area around Morningside and the region northwest of the Town of Ponoka — both of which would place exclusion zones on further development of confined feeding operations (CFOs).

The two draft documents would implement exclusion zones from residences and residential development zones through amendments to the county’s Municipal Development Plan (MDP). The plans are meant to help address the explosion of CFOs in these two areas, even though CFOs are regulated by the Natural Resources Conservation Board (NRCB).

“Previously, the county requested the NRCB do this as municipalities wanted to maintain their authority. What the NRCB is now indicating, that the municipality establish their land use zoning and exclusion zones in their MDP,” CAO Charlie Cutforth said.

“The best we can come up with are plans based on land use and have them referenced in the general land use plan within our MDP. That way, the NRCB is obligated to at least consider these plans in any decisions being made.”

He stressed that no land is being rezoned through this process.

While both drafts were prepared using current information, there was some excellent input received through officials at the NRCB, Cutforth noted, even though the county could not be told what the NRCB would and wouldn’t accept.

“With 99 residences south of Menaik Road, not including those of CFO operators, and many quarters eligible for subdivision, it is not good land-use planning to mix this number of existing and potential residences with more CFOs,” he said.

“The ASP proposes an 800 metre exclusion zone around all existing residences.”

With such a small track of land available, the ASP proposes all land between Highway 2 and one mile west of the Battle River bordered north and south by Menaik Road and Highway 53 become a CFO exclusion zone.

As for the proposed Morningside ASP, the present two mile exclusion zone from the Town of Ponoka, combined with the proposed one mile exclusion zone from existing and potential residential development could see no future expansion of current CFOs as well as no new operations.

Cutforth noted that current CFOs would remain operational and protected from encroachment from residential development.

“We have a lot of suitable land in the county. It’s just we have reached a saturation point (in both areas) and we don’t need it located all concentrated in one area,” said Cutforth.

Both Coun. Doug Weir and Bryce Liddle expressed concerns surrounding potential devaluing of land, especially in the northwest and about possible restrictions on the sale or purchasing of land by CFO operations.

Cutforth noted there is a possibility land may see lower values, but nothing in the ASPs will restrict any land purchases. As for any expansion of current CFOs, the NRCB will approve or deny an application as per their criteria.

Weir feels the two plans, “are a relatively good and reasonable compromise,” between residential and agricultural development.

Public hearings on the two ASPs have been set with the northwest plan scheduled for Aug. 13 at 1 p.m. and the Morningside plan scheduled for 7 p.m. that night — both will be held in the Ponoka County council chamber.

Council will still have an opportunity to amend the ASPs prior to its Aug. 14 council meeting where it’s anticipated the plans will come back before council.

Not all county councillors voted, as Reeve Paul McLauchlin was absent and Coun. Mark Matejka recused himself from the vote on the Morningside ASP.

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