June 18th, 2024

City amends bylaw to allow westside storage facility

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on March 10, 2022.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

Lethbridge is open to business – that message was delivered to the community Tuesday when city council gave second and third readings to a bylaw which would allow a greater parcel of land on University Drive West to be utilized for interim land use than is allowed under current policies.
Second reading was approved by a 6-2 margin and third 7-1. Councillor Jeff Carlson recused himself from the discussion and vote because he wasn’t present for the first reading at the Feb. 15 public hearing which he didn’t attend.
A submission was made by a land owner at 270 University Drive West that conflicts with policy 8.11 of the Implementation Plan of the South Saskatchewan Regional plan that states “municipalities are expected to establish land use patterns which provide an appropriate mix of agricultural, residential, commercial, industrial, institutional, public and recreational land uses; developed in an orderly, efficient, compatible, safe and economic matter.” A city report stated the proposed amendment would allow development that is non-sequential in order and not compatible with future land uses that are planned for the area.
The land owner wants to develop a mini-storage facility that utilizes more space than policies allow with the plan to occupy 80 per cent of the parcel for temporary use.
The amendment “effectively turns what is intended to be an interim use into full urban development without an approved outline plan in place and without sufficient utility servicing available. This parcel would get all the benefits of development without contributing its fair share of costs. While interim uses are intended to be temporary in nature, there is no legislative mechanism to enforce this,” said a report by senior community planner Tyson Boylan.
“Specifically, 270 University Dr. W is located at the south end of the first outline plan area that will likely be developed in the West Lethbridge Employment Centre area. Within the vicinity of this parcel, the WLECASP identifies a future collector roadway and two options for the location of a future railway crossing, with further determination to be made at the Outline Plan stage. It also identifies future water and sanitary sewer lines in this location as well. Allowing up to 80 per cent of 270 University Dr. W to be developed at this time is likely to threaten the transportation network design and utility servicing strategy of the ASP,” said the report.
WLECASP is the West Lethbridge Employment Centre Area Structure Plan, which was created by city council in 2013. With full development of the entire area expected to take 50-60 years, policies were included in the plan to “allow landowners some flexibility in the operation of their property and to establish parameters on what types of interim uses are appropriate until municipal utility servicing was available and outline plans were completed,” said Boylan’s report.
But council supported a motion supporting the amendment.
“We need to support this bylaw. First I agree with the concept that University Drive should be the commercial gateway to West Lethbridge and I’m sure someday in the distant future, it will be. But this area structure plan is almost 10 years old now and nothing is really changed,” he said.
“Sterilizing 80 per cent of the private property is a project killer. It devalues the property and leaves it ripe for picking and this is what makes me uncomfortable. I wonder if putting such an onerous restriction like that on a property might be challenged,” said Palladino.
“It is obvious this proposal is an interim use and thus temporary. Both our land use bylaw and the Municipal Government Act have provisions in them to allow the issuance of temporary development permits. I would suggest a permit be issued and remain in effect for at least until 2027. The project is clearly assembled from movable components designed to do just that – to eventually be moved. The proposed use doesn’t require extensive serving, some electrical and storm water management perhaps and that’s about it,” said Palladino.
He said the owner is a local businessman who has made clear that if any large store were to show up on his door, he could have the site ready in no time, Palladino added.
He told how during orientation the city wanted to become more approachable and user friendly and “we wanted to be deal makers and not deal breakers. So here’s our chance to take a small step toward that,” Palladino said.
Acting mayor Rajko Dodic said he was opposed to the bylaw amendments during debate.
He called it a bad idea and should be defeated.
“It will actually sterilize the West Lethbridge Employment area structure plan. You might as well just shelve it and let development proceed with little or no control,” Dodic said.
Dodic said the public hearing report recommended the bylaw be defeated.
“Some of the salient facts included in the rather voluminous material provided by the administration was firstly that this particular area structure plan was adopted quite awhile back and the area comprises mainly of an agricultural setting meant to transition to an urban setting and the interim uses were based on similar land uses that were developed prior to when that ASP was adopted. And it was meant to be a bridge between existing development and the future development plan for the area,” he said.
He said the current 20 per cent usage with a 200-metre setback was to align with the outcomes of the University Drive gateway corridor identified in the area structure plan under consideration.
“Passing this bylaw would now put you in non-alignment with that particular corridor plan.”
Councillor Ryan Parker, however, said he appreciated Dodic’s logic in his comments but “I believe that part of our strategic plan is we want to make sure we’re open for business, to cut red tape and work with our business community in finding solutions. So I think our administration did an amazing job in presenting and showing the facts and it’s now up to us to make the decision,” saying that’s where a difference in politics and bureaucracy comes into play.
“We need to make that value judgement. I can’t imagine there’d be much opposition from the surrounding neighbourhood if we were to approve this,” Parker added.
“I look at the big picture” saying the owner sees a demand in the community “and by allowing this we’re helping that need get filled,” Parker said.
“I can’t see a downside to doing this.”

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