WHEREAS the province of Alberta has established the Agricultural Operations Practices Act to guide development of confined feeding operations;AND WHEREAS municipalities no longer have planning control over these types of operations, but have been included in the legislation as having the ability to submit meaningful comments;AND WHEREAS Bill 17, the Agricultural Operation Practices Amendment Act, 2004 will further erode the municipal authority to submit meaningful comments on the development of confined feeding operations;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request the Government of Alberta to re-visit proposed amendments to the Agricultural Operations Practices Act (Bill 17) to ensure that municipalities have the ability to provide the Natural Resources Conservation Board with meaningful comments on the development of confined feeding operations within their jurisdiction.
When the Agricultural Operations Practices Act was introduced by the provincial government, despite losing the ability to site intensive livestock operations within their own jurisdiction, municipalities were ensured that we would have the opportunity to review and comment on new operations. Municipalities were to be an important information source and “partner” as the NRCB reviewed applications.Our municipality is concerned about amendments proposed in the current Bill 17, the Agricultural Operation Practices Amendment Act. We feel that amendments to the legislation will have the impact of reducing municipal involvement in confirming the use of property, and we will no longer have input into more detailed individual siting decisions. Under the current Act, Section 20(1) notes the following. The amendment proposed in Bill 17 would remove the italicized words, and replace them with the bolded text.20(1) In considering an application for an approval or an amendment of an approval, an approval officer must consider whether the applicant meets the requirements of this Part and the regulations and whether the application is consistent with the municipal development plan and if (plan land use provisions), in the opinion of the approval officer,(a) the requirements are not met or there is an inconsistency with the municipal development plan (plan land use provisions), the approval officer must deny the application, or(b) there is no inconsistency with the municipal development plan (plan land use provisions) and the requirements are met or a variance may be granted under Section 17 and compliance with the variance meets the requirement of the regulations, the approval officer(i) must consider matters that would normally be considered if a development permit were being issued,(ii) may make, or require the applicant to make, inquiries and investigations and prepare studies and reports, …..In addition to these changes to Section 20, an additional section is proposed to be added, and it notes:(1.1) In considering under subsection (1) whether an application is consistent with the municipal development plan land use provisions, an approval officer shall not consider any provisions respecting tests or conditions related to the construction of or the site for a confined feeding operation or manure storage facility nor any provisions respecting the application of manure, composting materials or compost.If these amendments are made to the Agricultural Operations Practices Act, we feel that municipal comments will be restricted only to the land use provisions of a municipal development plan. Municipalities would no longer have meaningful input on the operational conditions of applications in their municipality. We would also note that there is no definition of land use provisions, so its not even clear what that restriction might entail. Our planning staff feels that by restricting the comments to land use provisions, municipalities would be left to identify “specific” areas within the municipality where intensive livestock operations could locate, and their comments would be restricted to verifying if the land use permitted the confined feeding operation. Further, the municipality could not suggest tests or conditions, which would normally include: groundwater monitoring, specific manure spreading concerns, road damages, and other operational issues. We feel that this would eliminate meaningful input into the NRCB process.Bill 17 also proposes essentially the same amendment to Section 22 of the Agricultural Operations Practices Act. Section 20 as noted above relates to “approvals” or “amendments to an approval”, while Section 22 applies to a “registration” or an “amendment of a registration”.Bill 17 also proposes an amendment to Section 25(4) of the Agricultural Operations Practices Act. Section 25(4), in part currently reads:(4) In conducting a review the Board(h) must (may) consider matters that would normally be considered if a development permit were being issues.(i) must (must, in the case of an approval) consider the effect on the environment, the economy and the community and the appropriate use of land. These amendments to Section 25(4) further impair the municipalitys ability to comment on operation issues, as if we were commenting on a development permit.In summary, we feel that the amendments contained in Bill 17 will further limit municipal involvement in the NRCB review of the location and permitting of confined feeding operations.