Medicine Hat Land Use Bylaw 4th Draft Recommendations
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Medicine Hat Land Use Bylaw 4th Draft Recommendations
Municipal Affairs - Municipal Policy
Issue(s): The Medicine Hat & District Chamber of Commerce has consulted with members of the Chamber of Commerce and other municipalities regarding Draft 4 of the update to the Medicine Hat Land Use Bylaw. The consultations conducted have led the Chamber to identify three primary concerns within this latest draft:
- The draft Land Use Bylaw is too difficult to analyze without appropriate, comparable changes depicted between the draft versions of the LUB and the current LUB #3181
- Public consultations, although appreciated, are too broad and do not allow for proper feedback.
- Clarity needs to be provided on qualitative elements, numerical parameters and the authority of each entity that comprises the Development Authority
The current City of Medicine Hat Land Use Bylaw was adopted on August 25, 1998 when the city was just over 56,000 people. At present the city has grown to more than 61,000 people and encompasses a population that is more diverse, and requires a greater variety of needs for housing, recreation and business. An update to the Land Use Bylaw is necessary to the City of Medicine Hat to facilitate the opportunity for growth and prosperity in our region. The establishment of a fair, equitable and consistently applied system of standards, permissions and procedures is a necessary component of the Land use Bylaw and must be developed and adopted with consideration of the community it serves in mind. Currently the business community feels the need to slow the approval process of the land use bylaw to provide for greater understanding and comparison of the changes being implemented, as well as the opportunity for consultation of specific sections of the land use bylaw that affect particular interest groups.
The current City of Medicine Hat land use bylaw (LUB) was adopted on August 25, 1998. In August 2011, a 2009 City Council decision to approve the first charter for preparation of the new LUB was reviewed and a consultant was hired, which culminated into the first public draft of an updated land use bylaw being sent to community stakeholders for review and comments in May 2012. After several public and private consultations the City of Medicine Hat and their consultants began to rework a next draft of the LUB which was distributed to community stakeholders on October 22, 2012. It was noted at the time of distribution that City (i.e. Planning and Legal) had not reviewed the document and substantial changes were possible.
The Chamber appreciates the opportunity to be included in this process and commends the City for its consultations and openness during the development of the Land Use Bylaw. Including considerations from stakeholders within our community will ensure a bylaw is produced that is conducive to the future vision of the City of Medicine Hat, while also eliminating over regulation that is burdensome to businesses in our community.
On October 31, 2012 the Medicine Hat and District Chamber of Commerce held a workshop to review and assess the 4th draft of the City’s proposed Land Use Bylaw, particularly with respect to its potential impact on the business community. The participants in the workshop included a general cross-section of business operators – representing retail, the construction and building sector, real estate, as well as industrial representatives; two members of City Council were also in attendance. The workshop was conducted by Stantec Consulting Ltd with the assistance of staff from the Medicine Hat & District Chamber of Commerce.
Throughout the workshop attendees concluded that the direction of the bylaw was generally forward thinking and demonstrated an underlying vision to make the City a better place to live. The largest concern that surfaced regarding the Land Use Bylaw was the inability to dissect the changes to each draft of the Land Use Bylaw as it pertains to the current, enforced bylaw. Many members felt that due to the size, rewording and reorganizing of the document it was nearly impossible to decipher all changes that had been made. As an example, there appear to be many new additions and changes that the building and development community is likely unaware of, examples include:
- S.5.16- Bicycle Parking Requirements;
- S.126.96.36.199 – Minimum Size of Private Amenity Area;
- S.5.12 – Changes to some parking standards;
- S.5.2.5 – Surface treatment of parking areas;
- S.188.8.131.52- changes to loading space requirements;
- S.6.8.4 (d) - new site sizes for Manufactured Home Community; etc.
Members felt it would be beneficial for the City to provide a side by side comparison of the current LUB outlining changes that were made and an explanation of those changes.
In relation to the size and complexity of the Land Use Bylaw, members felt the City should slow the approval process of the LUB, perhaps continuing the consultation process on a section by section basis to ensure the community is properly informed of all the changes in each draft and the possible effects of those changes. The City also has the potential to gain much more useful feedback by using this focused approach.
Concerns also surfaced regarding the qualitative, subjective and potentially judgmental, language in the proposed bylaw. Examples of these include:
- S. 184.108.40.206 “…the Development Authority may attach other conditions to do any or all of the following (i) to upgrade the overall functionality and/or aesthetics of the lot”
- S.6.2.7 (b)“...Proponents may be required to demonstrate as part of the Development Permit processes how the new dwelling is compatible from a design and architectural perspective with existing homes on adjacent lots…”
- S. 220.127.116.11 “…development authority must consider…
- (g) …The merits of the proposed development
- (n) …Sound planning principles” d) S.6.5.6 (Residential High Density) – Additional Criteria for Considering Discretionary Uses – (a) – (o)…. E.g. (i) – Any proposed new buildings will have heights, massing and scale that are appropriate to the lot and be generally compatible with that permitted by the bylaw for adjacent properties and properties on the same public road”
- S 7.7 (Major Commercial District) No size or dimension requirements appear to be set out. However the Development Authority…must be satisfied that: (S.7.7.4 (a)) smaller architectural elements and features on the public road frontages are used to create a more human scale...”
Members felt this language has, and could again, provide the opportunity for inconsistent application of the Land Use Bylaw to applying parties.
The Chamber of Commerce commends the City of Medicine Hat for their openness during the Land Use Bylaw update process and their willingness to gain feedback from stakeholder groups and the general public.
However, there remains to be some underlying concerns. As the last complete bylaw was adopted in 1998, we do not believe it to be unreasonable to spend another 12 months in review of the bylaw to ensure proper consultations, inclusions and amendments are made to ensure that any contentious issues are addressed.
The Chamber is committed to facilitating opportunities for our members to provide feedback to the City of Medicine Hat; the following are recommendations generated at the conclusion of the Land Use Bylaw workshop and consultation in October 2012.
The Medicine Hat & District Chamber of Commerce recommends the City of Medicine Hat:
- Slow the review and approval process for the LUB to allow more time for evaluation and consultation. The evaluation process could include:
- Carrying out workshops/meetings on specific issues or sections of the bylaw that pertain to different interest groups e.g. builders, contractors, industrial park businesses, the general business community, retail community, etc.
- Following a proper 12 month public engagement period, consider “phasing in” some elements of a new bylaw if these appear contentious or would benefit from a trial period.
- Provide information pertaining to comparisons with other municipalities and the framework as to which concepts have been applied from the Land Use Bylaws of other municipalities.
- Reissue the current draft or any future drafts as per recommendation 2 below.
- Present and depict the draft version (Version 4, October 2012) or the next draft (Version 5) in a manner that shows the comparable changes between the proposed draft(s) and the present LUB Bylaw 3181. Furthermore, this comparison should explain the reasons for the changes.
- Ensure the bylaw and the administration of the bylaw, provides clarity on any “qualitative” terms and advise how the requirements are to be interpreted. Furthermore, instill confidence in the public and the business community that the administration’s interpretations of the LUB’s “qualitative elements” will be consistent and fair.
- Supplement the bylaw with additional graphics and illustrations for ease of understanding and interpretation, particularly for the “character” and “aesthetic” related requirements, as well as additional numerical parameters, eg: dimensions, minimums/maximums, within some of the proposed districts to facilitate applicant understanding.
- Place less emphasis on subjective matters of the bylaw and more emphasis on specifics related to planning, building, and safety.
- Any permits that are issued for permitted uses that meet all the requirements of the bylaw should not be subject to notice provisions. Section 2.3.6 implies that developments could be subject to such notice: S. 2.3.6 (a) “...The Development Authority may also, at its discretion, require public notice for other types of applications and if this occurs, such notification must also be provided in accordance with the requirements of this section”
- Cleary define the division of powers and responsibilities of the three entities that comprise the “Development Authority”. We recommend that the roles and responsibilities of the Development Authority as defined in section 2.1.2 a), the Municipal Planning Commission (MPC) and City Council, be clearly enunciated. Section 2.3.3 speaks to referrals to the MPC, it should be clearly defined what abilities the Development Officers have especially as it pertains to discretionary uses.
- Provide a clearer description of the referral processes to MPC and Council, as well as the appeal process to these authorities (including the Subdivision and Appeal Board) as an illustration in the appendix of the document.
- We recommend that the landscape requirements be reviewed. The generic minimum size of “20% of the lot area” where more than 3 units occur has been applied to a number of residential districts (RMD, RHD, and RMU). It may be more reasonable to consider greater discretion since each project may have different site and locational circumstances e.g. in close proximity to existing parks.
- We note that in an earlier version of the draft LUB, the existing developments were considered to be “permitted” or “grandfathered”. This version of the bylaw appears to exclude reference to this “grandfathering”. If this has indeed been removed, we recommend that it be re-inserted.
Date Drafted: January 11, 2013
Date Reviewed: February 20, 2013
Date Approved: February 20, 2013
Date Completed: 2013