The first steps of several community engagement sessions related to the Town of Ponoka’s land use regulations have been taken.
A first session was held Wednesday, Sept. 2 at the Hudson Green Nature and Activity Centre with Karen Sander and Meghan Jenkins, planners with Parkland Community Planning Services (PCPS), guiding attendees through the process.
While some of the material presented is relatively technical, Sander said there was much valuable background information needed to understand provincial rules that guide the planning process.
Considerations such as transportation, the environment, land use and development were among the areas planners need to consider when putting together a land-use bylaw (LUB). Sander says an LUB helps provide a system that manages public and private land.
Part of what guides the process is the recently implemented municipal development plan (MDP), a required planning document for communities with a population of 3,500 or more. Sander said an LUB would coincide with that.
The previous council consulted on and approved an MDP in 2013, but the LUB has not been revised since 1997. Resident Danny Lineham asked if the LUB should have been done first. “It seems to me we’ve done this backwards,” he commented.
Sander replied the two docuemnts usually are done together but added that no policy/bylaw in a community is locked. If the LUB sessions find changes are needed with the MDP, decisions to make those changes can be made.
Another resident, Bill Kuncio, raised concerns about the environment. He suggested many communities will neglect environmental issues in favour of development and growth. Sander replied that municipalities need to the weigh both issues.
The LUB can address some of those concerns, added Jenkins. “You have to balance conservation and growth,” said Jenkins.
One thing an LUB can do for a community is regulate and control the use of development of buildings and the land they sit on, explained Sander.
Resident Corrine Halland voiced her frustration of not being able to get approval for a secondary suite due to restrictions in the current bylaw.
These types of suites are on the rise in many cities and towns, added Jenkins, and she suggested this is a good reason to update the aged bylaw. Residents offered other areas that would need to be considered in the new LUB such as home-based businesses, acreage lots within the town limits and height restrictions on garages for loft suites.
PCPS planners intend to have another four community sessions over the next few months to gain feedback from the commercial, industrial, small business and downtown businesses in Ponoka over what they would like to see with the new LUB.
Approximately 30 people, including town councilors, attended the session.