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'Urbanites' in the country: Vocal group of east-side farmers take hardline position on acreages

Call it a tone, more prevalent on the east side of Mountain View County than the west, and directed by a vocal group of farmers toward acreage owners, who were conspicuously absent from the Reed Ranch and Carstairs roundtables.

Call it a tone, more prevalent on the east side of Mountain View County than the west, and directed by a vocal group of farmers toward acreage owners, who were conspicuously absent from the Reed Ranch and Carstairs roundtables.It was present during Div. 2 Coun. Patricia McKean's summary of comments at Tuesday's MDP roundtable session in Carstairs, which drew 67 participants.ìEducate the urbanites somehow,î McKean said, relaying the message she heard from her table on low-density country-residential development.ìIf we're not careful, the urbanites will overpower the rural vote.îMcKean was not making it up. At the first session held at her table, the opening comment about country-residential development was: ìI'd like to see it eliminated completely.îìI'd just as soon we had none,î said a second participant. ìWe got enough.îìWhat about in the growth centres?î McKean asked.ìNone,î said a third speaker. ìTo me, that's what the towns are for.îDave Derksen, a former councillor who now works as an agent for farmers applying for subdivisions, was also sitting at the table; he asked why acreages were not acceptable for hilltops and other terrain that was unsuitable for farming.Even there, said the second speaker, environmental issues become a factor.And the acreage owners on ìmarginal landî will still complain about dust, noise and other results of farming practices, said the third speaker.ìIgnore them,î Derksen said.ìBut you can't,î said a fourth speaker. ìAs soon as you have more acreage owners than farmers, we're hooped.îAnd with some farmers contending that residential development is a net drain on the county's bottom line when tax revenue is compared to the cost of services provided, one of the speakers asked: ìWhy would we want to pay for residential?îOne elderly farmer sitting at a table on growth centres had a different slant on what he called ìthe war on subdivisions,î saying a single use of large ag parcels was ìa very poor use of land. Subdivisions done right,î he said, ìare a benefit to the county as a whole.îAmong the more inflammatory comments aimed at acreage owners and copied down by county staff at the two east-side workshops:ï Attracting wrong crowd on two-acre lots.ï Acreage owners don't stay long ñ move in two years.ï Short-term gain now but in the long term we will pay when all these urban people live in the county.ï Urban people will take over.ï Acreage owners should be rural-minded people.One suggestion at Carstairs was that ag land, if sold, should be offered to Hutterites, ìbecause they don't subdivide.îOthers, however, called for more flexible policies and argued that the county should not be so restrictive that landowners are prevented from taking financial advantage of subdividing.While a wide range of views were expressed at all four roundtable sessions, and many participants said subdivisions should not be allowed on prime farmland or should be limited to first parcel out, the tolerance toward acreage development in general was higher in Sundre, where 86 participants packed the Legion hall Wednesday night.As with previous roundtables, many Sundre participants rejected the current MDP policy of using proximity to the county collector network as a basis for allowing multi-lots. But granting five titles on a quarter section was deemed acceptable by some of those present, as long as water and sewage were adequately addressed.ìIf there are concerns about sewage from country-residential,î one participant said, ìwe'd better look at beef operations ñ feedlots ñ because there's more contamination coming off that than people living in a house.îìWest for subdivisions, east for agriculture,î was one comment heard at Carstairs, and Div. 7 Coun. Al Kemmere noted the challenge facing council, with participants wanting the same rules to apply countywide but also to have different criteria for the east and west sides, which he affirmed were ìtwo completely different worlds.îSome Sundre participants said CR clusters should be allowed only on marginal lands, which led to debate on whether cultivated land should be considered more ìprimeî than grazing land. With the Canada Land Inventory rating system dating back to the 1940s, and based on the ability of soil to grow wheat, Kemmere said, a new standard is needed to identify land quality.There was no consensus on whether growth centres around towns should be targeted for residential development, but a common thread throughout the sessions was that growth-centre densities under the current MDP are far too high, with 30-60 lots per quarter suggested in Sundre as the allowable maximum.One participant in Sundre said he had no objection to the size of the growth centre around that town, but he did have some issues with the size of the Olds designation.ìIt's not my place to say,î he told Kemmere, whose division takes in the Olds area, ìbut around Olds I see a lot of ag land that's being toasted by putting buildings on it. It's so huge. Sundre is different because it's not as good farmland.îìDevelopment of 2 and 27 is a criminal act,î was one comment made in Sundre, and shared with participants as an amusing tidbit by deputy reeve Bruce Beattie during his summary comments on agriculture.Maps appearing at the workshops (and reprinted in last week's Gazette) showing the historical increase in subdivisions were revised after some participants in Carstairs complained they were misleading by highlighting entire quarter sections.ìIt's not as bad as it looks,î Reeve Paddy Munro said in Sundre, pointing to the unchanged map showing the current situation, ìbecause some of the dots represent first parcel out. But you can see it represents a real fracturing of farmland.îWhile the size of dots has shrunk, Div. 1 Coun. Kevin Good told the Gazette prior to the Sundre workshop, the most recent map still identifies 65,590 acres that have been subdivided out of the county's land base of 914,502 acres.ìThat number hasn't changed,î Good said.