Planning and Development
2017 saw a very busy year in the planning department. Overall development permits, subdivisions and amendments saw a significant increase from 2016 at 38%, 60%, and 79% respectively.
Staffing turnovers led to changes within the department and the hiring of a new Development Officer in June. With two full time Development Officers, the backlog of permits that had started in 2016 was worked on throughout the calendar year. Despite a significant reduction in permit issuance timelines by the end of the calendar year, staff will continue to work towards expedited timelines in 2018.
With a move towards zero fees, development permit applications were at their third highest in the last five years. A large number of permits were the result of an ongoing development permit file audit which sought to review previously issued permits and ensure that all conditions on the permit had been satisfied. With no fees in place, residents who required a new permit had no additional costs associated with bringing a property into compliance. Subdivisions also jumped from 2016, with 24 applications for the year.
Bylaw Amendments saw a five year high of 34 applications, well above the previous high of 21. The majority were related to rezoning as a result of the adoption of a new Land Use Bylaw at the end of 2016. The remainder were for statutory plan amendments or adoptions.
A big success for the department and the County as a whole was the ALUS program. Though adopted at the end of 2015, 2017 saw the majority of projects installed and paid out to producers. Most projects were covered by a provincial grant which paid for 100% of establishment costs. Going forward, the program will still provide 50% coverage for project installation and continue to seek alternative revenue streams from grants. In 2017, Brazeau County residents enrolled 204 acres in the program, putting the County as the third highest contributor of acres in the province amongst ALUS communities. We continue to accept applications to the program, which will be transitioned to the Agricultural Department over the course of this year.
An exciting project the County was selected to participate in was the Climate Resilience Express. This project involved getting community members together at a workshop and providing actions for the County to adapt to a changing climate. All of the actions work towards better addressing natural disasters such as flooding, drought and forest fires to lessen the impact on our community. The full Climate Resilience Action Plan was accepted by Council in early 2018 and can be found on the County website.
Changes to provincial legislation in 2017 has required the County to collaborate with all municipal neighbours on land use planning and service delivery. This means 7 new Intermunicipal Development Plans and Intermunicipal Collaboration Frameworks, which are documents that work towards ensuring complimentary land uses in the fringe area and efficient service delivery. The plan with Drayton Valley is already underway, aided by funding received from the provincial government, and is expected to be complete summer 2018. The plan with Parkland County is also underway and expected to be complete in that same time frame. Once complete, the County will continue pursuing plans with our other municipal neighbours. 2017 also saw the announcement from the federal government to legalize cannabis. The County has been ensuring the most up to date and accurate information is being shared with our community and has been regularly updating our website with new information as it becomes available. The County has also proactively engaged with the public on how to best address this issue and will be bringing a report to Council summer 2018 outlining proposed changes to County bylaws, based on the feedback received.
Building on the successes of 2017, the County will continue to leverage the changes in provincial and federal legislation in the best interest of our community, including working collaborative with our municipal neighbours and providing comprehensive rules around cannabis legalization. Of upmost priority will continue to be providing a high level of customer service while working towards expedited permit issuance timelines.