“With staff growth in the town, in administration, the planning department was bounced around and didn’t really have a home,” said Armfelt, who is settling into his new digs and new position.
“We manage the Municipal Development Plan (MDP) and we’re doing our MDP review right now. There’s planning tools that the Municipal Government Act (MGA) allows us to use and the MGA is the provincial document that regulates municipalities,” said Armfelt, in regards to the purpose of the planning and development department.
Armfelt noted the Town of Taber is a corporation whose parent company is the province of Alberta. The province lays out the rules for municipalities to operate. In the planning and development world, Armfelt added, the province gives the town tools — the MDP, an Area Structure Plan (ASP), a Land-Use Bylaw and intermunicipal development plans.
“Those are adopted by council and the MDP and an ASP are really kinds of a policy document and a bit of a less strict document for being very prescriptive. It’s things like if somebody wants to develop in town, how much security are we going to take. That’s kind of a policy example that you’d find in an MDP,” said Armfelt.
According to Armfelt, the Land-Use Bylaw is also very prescriptive. The town is broken up into zones — residential, industrial and retail. For example, if an individual wants to build a house in a certain area, the Land-Use Bylaw would dictate how far back from the road the house would have to be built in order to meet the criteria set out in the bylaw.
Another aspect the planning and development department takes care of is development permitting. Armfelt said if an individual wants to build a factory, or wants to build a house or put up a shed or a deck in a backyard — the individual must stop by the department office and fill out a development permit, which will cost $60. From there, the department makes sure all the aspects of the MDP and the Land-Use Bylaw are being upheld. If there are issues with the permit, a decision could be made within the department or at times the issue will be submitted to the Municipal Planning Commission (MPC), who will hear the applicant and his/her concerns regarding the issue. The MPC will make a decision, based on that hearing.
“In a nutshell, that is one aspect of what we do. We look after development on behalf of the town,” said Armfelt.
Economic development is another aspect the department is responsible for, with the direction of town council. One issue the department was tasked with is the cleaning up of unsightly premises around town.
“If I don’t have support of council to go and clean up unsightly premises, I don’t do it. Council really is the entity that directs me day to day,” said Armfelt.
When a potential new business wants to perhaps set up shop in town, the business may ask the planning and development department what is Taber’s labour pool like? What’s Taber’s expected wage rates? What would some operational costs be on electricity, natural gas and sewer rates to run a business in town? Down the road, after a business decides to start up in the community but the business wants to do something on a piece of property that doesn’t fit the Land-Use Bylaw but is a good thing for the town, Armfelt said the department may facilitate a change to the zone, the new business is located in.
“Or whatever we have to do. We’ll take that to council and say this is the proposal that we’ve got but we have to do A, B and C to make it work for these guys,” said Armfelt, with the example of a proposal to council being the potential business needs to have a new access road and the business needs to change the Land-Use Bylaw. Armfelt added, in that case, he would mention to council he supports the new business development proposal and it is a good thing for the town. He would then ask council for their thoughts on the matter. Some of the questions council might ask are how much will this endeavour cost the town and is it in the budget?
“That’s really what my role is. There’s rules that have to be followed, when it comes to permitting and growth and I make sure those rules are followed at the administrative level on behalf of council,” said Armfelt.