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Bonnyville residents raise concerns during Land Use Bylaw open house

The MD of Bonnyville, along with a private consulting firm, invited the public to voice their suggestions for an upcoming Land Use Bylaw review.

BONNYVILLE - Last week, the MD of Bonnyville, along with a private consulting firm, invited the public to voice their suggestions for an upcoming Land Use Bylaw review.  

On May 8 at Eastbourne Hall, it was clear that many people who came were concerned that bylaw changes had already been proposed, but MD of Bonnyville CAO Al Hoggan and project manager Sylvia Summers of Stantec Consulting Ltd., assured the crowd that the open house was created to gather feedback from the community on what they wanted to see in regards to the Land Use Bylaw.  

The consulting firm will gather feedback and release a “what we heard” report before creating a proposal. A survey is also to come. 

Many people still entered the conversation with skepticism – one attendee commenting on the presentation display, stated, “All I saw was restriction, restriction, restriction.”  

Summers presented just a few slides of her presentation before being inundated with a wide range of questions and concerns ranging from assessor land access infringements, carbon tax, rebranding, and tax dollars being invested in consultation firms.  

Many of the questions were outside of the scope of the land use bylaws, but the crowd was eager to voice their concerns.  

Summers did not get the opportunity to continue her PowerPoint presentation but said the information would be available to the public online if they wished to review it. Another public hearing will be held after the harvest season for further review of the proposal.  

Kevin Letal came to the open house with the understanding that the MD of Bonnyville was requesting feedback.  

“I came with the knowledge that I’d read what they had, I knew what I wanted, and I’m open and ready to have a discussion.”  

Letal voiced concerns about the bylaw restrictions on livestock on smaller acreages. With the rising cost of living, and it being increasingly difficult to know where our food comes from, many of his friends would like to create more self-sufficiency by raising livestock, but the bylaws are currently too limiting.  

Letal and his family keep bees and similarly feel the restrictions on hives should be increased to four to six hives, and that the $200 hive registration fee - a fee not shared by other animals - should be tossed.  

Efforts were made to create an environment where people could not only voice their opinions but write down their feedback. Sticky notes were provided to write quick comments on the presentation boards.  

Among both verbal and written concerns was the implementation of an international non-governmental initiative called Local Governments for Sustainability or ICLEI. Hoggan stepped in to assure those in attendance that not only is he not receiving funding from the group, but that he had never even heard of the group until now.  

Resident Barry Luciak suggested, “We could do better on both sides.” There are people who feel ill-informed about the situation, and the MD of Bonnyville could improve the accessibility of information, he said.  

Complaints were also made about the timing of the meeting being during a busy time for farmers, and that the focus on online distribution of information does not suit those who don’t use the Internet or social media.  

Luciak urged citizens to take responsibility for their own education.  

Hoggan suggested he might offer his time to take groups of citizens interested in learning about bylaws and set up dates to go through the municipality’s current bylaw document.  

A similar open house was held at Riverhurst Hall on May 9. 

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