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Council defeats inclusion of automotive and equipment repair shop in Controlled Urban Development Districts

Town of St. Paul council defeats proposed bylaw that would modify the land use regulations within Controlled Urban Development Districts to allow both heavy and light automotive repair shops.

ST. PAUL – During the Town of St. Paul’s regular council meeting on May 13, a public hearing was held to obtain public input regarding proposed Bylaw 2024-07, which would modify the land use regulations within Controlled Urban Development Districts (CUDs) to allow both heavy and light automotive repair shops. 

The Controlled Urban Development Districts were created in 2021 by merging the Urban Reserve (UR) and Country Residential (CR) districts surrounding the Town of St. Paul. Already existing automotive businesses do exist in some areas. 

The proposal intended to align the rules with these existing businesses. 

“The intent of this amendment is to match what's existing on the ground as these developments already have been ongoing for many years now in the CUD District,” reads information from the Town of St. Paul. 

James Murphy, a land use planning and municipal lawyer, voiced strong opposition on behalf of his clients, who own a 7.2-acre parcel of land set aside for residential development within a CUD zone. Murphy argued that the proposed amendments were inconsistent with the Town's long-term development plans – the Municipal Development Plan (MDP). 

While LUB is the present zoning for the Town, the MDP is the Town’s proposal for zoning into the future. 

“The stated purpose of the CUD zone in your Land Use Bylaw is to allow for the limited agricultural, recreational and low intensity development on the urban fringe, while preventing land use incompatibilities and fragmentation, and preserving the integrity and development efficiency of such lands until they're ready for urban development,” said Murphy, referring to the Town’s MDP.  

“So, clearly, the CUD is a holding zone where the lands affected are waiting for the market to trigger what the LUB calls urban development.” 

He also questioned, “what kind of urban development is the [LUB] anticipating?” before referring to the Town’s MDP, where it anticipates four categories: residential, commercial, business employment - which is equivalent to light and medium industrial under the LUB - and parks, open spaces, and school space. 

“Your [MDP] shows that almost all of land in town zoned as CUD is slated for future residential and future residential-friendly commercial development,” he said, arguing that introducing heavy and light automative repair shops could disrupt this balance and hinder the residential and residential-friendly commercial development planned for the area. 

Allowing these uses could also lead to conflicts with existing residential areas, he said, suggesting that zoning changes should support the Town’s strategic goals rather than maintaining the status quo which could stifle planned residential developments. 

“So why, in the interest of good land use planning, would you want to introduce the proposed business employment uses into every parcel of land in town currently zoned CUD?” he asked.  

“Would it not be smarter to make these light [and] medium industrial uses available only on those CUD lands that are in fact slated to be business opportunity in the future?” he asked. 

“You should be trying to phase out the old where it's appropriate and foster the new.” 

Murphy noted there are accommodations for existing businesses already in place. 

“It's why we have things called non-conforming uses in Alberta’s planning law. Any operation that is already in place, even if it's been there for a lot of years, or just a couple of years before the zoning changed, no matter what the current zoning might be, it is grandfathered.” 

This means already existing businesses would not be forced to shut down because of a LUB change and can continue operating for years to come. 

Following the public hearing, council discussed some potential implications of the proposed amendment. For example, council explored whether non-conforming use regulations could address the needs of existing businesses without the broad amendment to CUD zoning. 

Mayor Maureen Miller also acknowledged the misalignment between the current LUB and the MDP, promising to review and update the MDP to better reflect the current and future land-use goals of the Town. 

“So, for the community to know, we actually acknowledge that and we are making... huge strides to fix it up.... I mean, the MDP is old,” she said. 

Following more discussions, council defeated the proposed bylaw in its third reading, with Miller reiterating council’s commitment to aligning the LUB with an updated MDP. 

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