Innovative Land Use Bylaw launches High River to the forefront of municipal development

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Monday, April 24, 2017

April 24, 2017 – HIGH RIVER, AB – After extensive research and public consultation, a new Land Use Bylaw was passed at the regular meeting of Council on April 24. This groundbreaking bylaw consolidates the Town’s 41 existing land use districts into six and will serve as the Town’s rulebook to guide all future development in High River.

“We are a people-first community, and there was a huge effort made to involve our citizens in the development of this bylaw,” says Mayor Craig Snodgrass. “It was extremely important to us that people understood what this bylaw would mean for the future of High River and what amazing potential it will provide.”

The new bylaw offers more flexibility and collaboration between the Town, developers and High River citizens and this will help the Town build communities that better serve the needs of its people.

“Improvements have been made that will remove parking requirements for new developments and eliminate the need for a lengthy and restrictive approval process for changes of use, such as secondary suites,” says Khalid Mohammed, manager of planning and development services with the Town.

The Town’s Planning and Development Services Division partnered with McElhanney Consulting Services Ltd., in early 2016 to perform a major review of the existing Land Use Bylaw. The new version is more permissive rather than prescriptive, and it will also offer a strong digital component to make viewing and searching the document simpler.

“We completely re-thought how a land use bylaw could implement sustainability goals and walkability principles. The result was a shift from a use-based model to a form-based model,” says Melissa Ayers, community planner with McElhanney Consulting Services Ltd. “This provides more flexibility and reduces typical process barriers to changing uses while increasing walkability, environmental sustainability and focusing on social integration for communities.”

The review and re-write of the High River Land Use Bylaw was initiated to complement the dynamic and people-focused strategic initiatives of Town Council. The Town had already adopted the Smart Growth Principles in 2012 and with a new progressive Council at the helm, Town administration began to develop outside-of-the-box ideas with no boundaries.

“The goal is to rethink traditional neighbourhood districts and mix residential and commercial uses to create destinations within communities,” says Ayers. “We are creating opportunities that will bring necessary, everyday services closer to residents by reducing, if not eliminating, regulatory barriers that restrict creativity.”

Ayers added that the status quo for development has been to separate residential and commercial uses because cars have been widely considered as the main method of transport.

“While separating uses became a best practice, it is not sustainable or economically feasible,” adds Ayers. “This bylaw will reduce dependency on cars and allow people to walk a short distance to grocery stores and other destinations while increasing social interactions within the community.”

The bylaw was written as a tool for long-term growth goals. This means that, while the changes may begin now, they will not begin to have a major impact until 10 to 15 years into the future.

“We are offering opportunities to create beautiful, quality developments in High River without the constraints of all the previous rules and regulations,” says Mohammed. “We are creating a more collaborative environment for administration and developers to build the best community we can.”

Administration is in the process of designing a monitoring program that may be initiated after the Bylaw has been adopted. This will allow for some amendments and adjustments to be made to the bylaw as the Town begins to understand the needs of the community.

The new High River Land Use Bylaw can now be viewed on the Town’s website.

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