Wheatland County is reviewing its municipal development plan, and is seeking input from residents and ratepayers to help direct the process.
Wheatland County’s municipal development plan (MDP), approved by council in 2013, is the county’s principal statutory document guiding decision-making regarding its future growth and development. The MDP addresses land use, economic and residential development, environmental and historical resources, tourism, transportation, and municipal services and facilities, among other matters.
Regular reviews of the MDP, performed every five to 10 years, ensures it is up to date, reflects the views and priorities of the county’s constituents and council, and aligns with policy and statutory documents, explained Matt Boscariol, Wheatland County’s general manager of community and development services.
“It’s extremely important to get it right to reflect the economic, social and environmental concerns of the day,” said Boscariol.
The review will help the county adapt its planning efforts to current market trends.
“Revisiting the municipal development plan (now) is timely, considering everything that’s happened in 2020, to ensure that we support our existing uses and established businesses and industries here,” said Bascariol. “The economy is changing, which impacts businesses, which then in turn impacts where you want growth situated and businesses situated.”
A focus of the review is considering the balance between agricultural land preservation and economic diversification, which often results in the conversion of agricultural lands to other land uses.
“We need to look at (diversification) because we need to ensure that we have revenue coming in to provide municipal services that ratepayers expect,” said Boscariol. At the same time, agriculture is central to Wheatland’s history, economy and culture.
Community engagement is essential to the review.
“Getting feedback from residents – that’s the most important thing that we need to get out of us,” he said. “Throughout this process, we’re ensuring that we’re providing avenues for residents to get involved – sending out postcards, print, virtual – so they can take ownership of how this county grows.”
The county is hosting a series of online webinars to discuss aspects of the plan with residents.
The first session, Preserving Our Heritage, considered whether changes or amendments are needed regarding the MDP’s policies around preserving agricultural lands, conserving natural areas and water resources, and protecting and promoting historical resources. Held on Aug. 20, it is now available for viewing on the county’s website (wheatlandcounty.ca/mdp) and YouTube channel.
County staff will ultimately present their findings, produced in-house to minimize costs, to county council in Spring 2021. Council will then consider the information, contribute to the process and finalize any changes through a resolution.
Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times