Town of Slave Lake Council notebook

Nov. 15, 2022 meeting

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

Hobby farm application approved

After nobody spoke up against the idea of a farming operation on a property in town, council approved the required bylaw change. The owner of the property south of Highway 2 is now free to start farming – in a limited way – for a five-year period.

Council’s approval was not unanimous. The vote was 4 – 2 in favour, with councillors Julie Brandle and Steve Adams opposed.

“I’m not in favour of this,” said Brandle. “I just don’t think a farm should be in town.”

Brandle said because the approval is not “site-specific,” it makes her leery. Any land designated as Urban Expansion (UE) would qualify for a hobby farm. Brandle mentioned the backyard poultry debate of a few years ago.

“I don’t want that to come up again,” she said.

The owner of the land, Marc Boissoneault, wants to grow crops on part of the property and eventually raise some animals as well. Since farming was not listed as a permitted use in the UE district, the town’s planning department went to work and came up with a definition for a ‘hobby farm,’ that it felt would work in that space. It also recommended that it only be approved for five years, with a possibility of renewal. The reason for this, council heard, is that the UE land-use zone, as the name suggests, is for expansion – housing, commercial, industrial – what have you.

Mayor Tyler Warman said he is nervous about locking up such land when there’s “only a handful” of pieces of it available for urban growth. On the other hand, “I’d like to find a way to say yes if there’s a chance,” he said.

Warman did find a way to say yes to the proposal, along with councillors Hughes, Ward and Gramlich. Councillor Brice Ferguson did not participate in the discussion or vote, having a family connection to the applicant.

Boissoneault said he hopes to eventually sell the front section of the property for highway commercial development. Otherwise, “a whole bunch of it is flood plain,” he said. “It suits what I’m doing.”

Thumbs up for projecting signs

The second public hearing of the evening was on the proposal to change the sign regulations in the town’s land-use bylaw, to allow ‘projecting’ signs. These are the ones that stick out from the front of a building, as opposed to the usual type that’s flat on the building façade.

Nobody spoke up in favour or against the bylaw change. The only question from council came from Steve Adams, who asked if the size of the signs would be restricted.

Answer: Yes, and the height.

“I’m in favour,” said councillor Kim Hughes. The idea for the change actually came out of a tourism society meeting, she said. The idea is to enhance the downtown shopping experience for pedestrians and motorists.

Council gave unanimous approval to the bylaw change.

It’s maybe worth pointing out that projecting signs weren’t strictly banned in the previous set of regs. But if you had another kind of sign (I.e. fascia, awning or canopy), you weren’t allowed another type on the same business façade. The ATB in downtown Slave Lake, for example, has had a projecting sign on the 3rd Ave. NE side for a long time.

ATB already has one
The Fix wants one

Bylaw amendments aim to improve compliance on snow-removal and grass-cutting

Council approved a beefed-up policy on enforcement of a couple of pesky issues. One is non-clearance of snow and ice on sidewalks; the other is grass that doesn’t get mowed on private property.

The process for getting compliance has been time-consuming and not very effective, council heard. Last spring, council asked administration to look into ways to improve the process, so it doesn’t take weeks (sometimes) before something actually gets done.

What the new bylaw does is “shorten the timeline for compliance,” said director of community services Garry Roth.

The new operating procedures also allow the town to go in and clear off a sidewalk, if there are public safety concerns. The cost may be charged back to the property owner, but no penalties.

There may also be some situations where a notice can be issued for the entire season.

As for grass-cutting, the new operating procedure lays out a timeline for compliance.

Council gave all three readings to both the required bylaw amendments – the community standards bylaw and the snow removal bylaw.

Commenting on the new rules, mayor Warman noted that such tools can be used but also abused.
True of any type of enforcement, said Roth.

“I’d rather have the tools than not,” said Warman. “Hopefully we use them correctly.”

Quick approval of governance protocol amendments

The Town of Slave Lake is a member of the Alberta North Central Alliance (ANCA). It was made up of five municipalities and five First Nations, but one of the latter group recently withdrew. This necessitated a change in the ANCA governance protocols, which has to be ratified by the councils of each member of the group.

The changes mainly have to do with removing references to Kapawe’no First Nation from the document. The remaining members of the Alliance are Bigstone Cree Nation, Sucker Creek First Nation, Driftpile First Nation, High Prairie, Slave Lake, Big Lakes County, M.D. of LSR and M.D. of Opportunity.

Council voted in favour of the motion, with no discussion.

Railway advocacy

Responding to a letter from the Alberta Forest Products Association (AFPA), council voted to spend $2,000 on a railway advocacy campaign.

The issue is what the AFPA describes as “poor railway service” hurting industry in rural Alberta. Railways are profitable, the letter continues, but they are “failing to invest those profits back into the people and infrastructure to fulfill their service obligations.”

In response to this situation, the AFPA is teaming up with municipalities and has come up with a plan to hire a lobby firm to apply pressure in the right places. The initial cost is $35,000. The AFPA is kicking in $15,000, and would like municipalities to come up with the rest.

“It’s about access to rail cars,” said mayor Warman. “It’s a monopoly in the north.”

Has the town ever hired a lobbyist before, asked councillor Adams. Not as far as I know, said Warman, though it has been discussed.

Adams: Do we have to decide tonight?

Warman: It’s up to us.

Adams: Will we get updates?

Warman: Theoretically, yes. From me.

Warman made the motion to approve the $2,000 unbudgeted expenditure. He got some support from councillor Hughes.

“If there’s something we can be doing,” she said.

Warman: “It’s a low-cost item, but it impacts hundreds of jobs in our area.”

Mayor’s corner

“I’ve got nothing!” said Warman, probably surprising a few people. Then it turned out he did have something.

Come on out for the Métis flag-raising ceremony on Wednesday at 11 a.m. if you can, he said.

Warman also urged residents to take part in the 2023 budget survey. It’s a questionnaire seeking public input on spending priorities for the town in the upcoming year. It can be found on the town website.

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