Woodlands County is in the process of updating the Municipal Development Plan (MDP). The MDP is a high-level land use and community planning document that provides broad direction for how the County grows and develops land in the future.
What is a Municipal Development Plan?
A key to communicate long-term desired land use.
Shows the future shape of the community
A legislative document, adopted by bylaw
Guiding documents for future decisions of publicly and privately owned land
Identifies the infrastructure and services needed to support intended uses
The document was last adopted in 2013. Woodlands County would like to invite residents to provide feedback on our Draft Municipal Development Plan.
A summary of the changes can be FOUND HERE.
Council passed first reading of Bylaw 611-24 - Woodlands County Municipal Development Plan at the January 31 Council meeting and set two public hearing dates. Interested individuals may attend either public hearing to voice any comments or concerns.
Written comments or concerns on the Bylaw may be provided prior to 4:30 pm, February 21, 2024 to:
Box 60, Whitecourt, AB T7S 1N3
Attention: Joan Slootweg, Director, Community Services
or by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
|Tuesday, February 27, 2024
Municipal Office, Whitecourt
|Wednesday, February 28, 2024
Appendix A of the Draft Municipal Development Plan can be found below.
The County's current policies prioritize agricultural way of life and works to ensure development and subdivision do not negatively impact the ability for land owners to successfully run their farming operation. Decisions on development and subdivision can lead to conflicts between land users. For example, large 'estate' type residential owners not understanding that open fields around their property may be farmed, which generates smells, sights and sounds associated with typical farm activity.
The intent of the review is to create land use policies and regulations that protect the right to farm and protects farmland from being divided into smaller parcels, also know as fragmentation, that make it more difficult to farm, consolidate land, or expand a farming operation.
BETTER AGRICULTURAL LAND
'Better agricultural land' is subjective and can be challenging to qualify, which may cause issues when trying to apply rules consistently on all properties in Woodlands County. Consistency can mean creating a cut off point, or drawing a line on a map to clarify which areas qualify. The intent is to make it fair and consistent, so landowners know what to expect.
The current MDP suggests that ‘better agricultural land’ is Canada Land Inventory designated Class 3 or better. There aren't many lands that qualify as Class 3 in Woodlands County, meaning most agricultural land may be left unprotected from incompatible uses and fragmentation.
The updated MDP proposes a different approach to determine what is ‘better agricultural land’. The approach is based on local knowledge of the area and uses Farmland Assessment Value instead of the CLI. Farmland Assessment Value (FAV) is the assessed value of unimproved farmland in the local context. FVA will be noted in on your assessment report.
Please see diagrams below on examples of previously approved subdivisions under what our current policies and regulations allowed that may have caused what could be considered inappropriate land fragmentation to land that would be on ‘better agricultural land.’
The new proposed plan would include combining Agricultural 1 and Agricultural 2 into one Agricultural land use district and applying the FAV to determine how much subdivision is possible on a given quarter section.
The approach used is a FAV of $114.46 as the ‘cut off’ value, where land with a FAV of $114.46 or greater is considered ‘better agricultural land.’ As seen in the example diagram below, if the FAV is under $114.46 then you are able to create a maximum of 4 parcels. Two 2 being residential parcels of up to 10 acres and 2 being an 80/80-acre split. If it is determined that the FAV is $114.46 or greater on a parcel of land there could only be the creation of 1 parcel, as noted in the example either 1 residential parcel 5-10 acres in size (ie. subdividing off the farmstead) or splitting the quarter section in half (80 acres/80 acres).
A parcel would be considered ‘better agricultural land’ if 80% of the parcels land has a FAV of $114.46 or greater.
Frequently Asked Questions
The maps provided are to be used as guidelines and for reference purposes only, actual FAV to be determined at the time of application. Assessment of farmland is regulated across the province but doesn’t occur every year in every region of the County. Maps will be updated again when the Municipal Development Plan is updated (every 5 years).
For parcels that already have subdivisions created on the ¼ section, it would require less than 80% of the parcel to have a FAV of $114.45 or lower to be eligible to have that additional (up to 4 parcels per ¼ section) residential parcel created.
We are all custodians of the land, so all farming of any kind can still hold value to the person utilizing it. However, the proposed changes would eliminate small agriculture holdings on all parcels zoned Agriculture. There will still be opportunities to create parcels of 15 - 40 acres, however it would now require the landowner to apply for a Land Use Amendment to rezone the parcel to Agriculture Rural Estates, which would only be possible to ¼ sections that are not 'better agricultural land'. This change is to prevent land fragmentation of farmland.