Big Lakes makes room for colonies in land-use bylaw

Richard Froese
For the Lakeside Leader

Colony communities are now allowed in Big Lakes County on agricultural land.

Council made the decision at its Oct. 26 meeting, giving final reading to the required land-use bylaw amendment.

The adoption of the amended bylaw came after a quiet public hearing. No written submissions were received either.

The process of making room in the bylaw for agricultural colonies (such as the Hutterites) began last July, when the Municipal Planning Commission (MPC) recommended it.

No such colonies are located in the county.

The county’s planning department checked land-use bylaws in other municipalities, council heard.

What they found was “no consistent standard way of handling this type of development,” said Pat Olansky, the county’s director of planning and development.

Some municipalities, for example, require a ‘direct-control’ district, which would require all such development applications to be approved by council.

Others allow either communal dwelling units or multi-unit dwellings as a use within the ag district.

The amended Big Lakes bylaw adds multi-unit (I.e., colony) dwelling as a discretionary use.

Notice of applications for discretionary uses must be sent to adjacent property owners, giving them an opportunity to comment, prior to a decision being made.

The bylaw also allows the development authority to issue a permit for more than three dwellings on a parcel in the ag district.

As well, the bylaw defines colony as multi-unit dwellings and associated facilities, which may be contained within one building or within several buildings and are directly associated with a colony.

Colony-style multi-unit dwellings are designed to provide living accommodations for colony members who are directly involved in the day-to-day function of the agricultural operation owned and operated by the colony.

Associated facilities may include a communal kitchen, dining room, school and church.

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