Information Update on Prairie Gardens

Published on Sep 23, 2022

Starting September 23, Prairie Gardens can resume intensive agriculture operations, including greenhouse, u-pick and market gardens. It may also conduct agritourism operations including corn maze, hayrides, and other small-scale events for the remainder of the 2022 season.

Prairie Gardens will:

  • Make safety improvements that align with Alberta Transportation guidelines to ensure safe movement of vehicles to and within its sites, manoeuvring of vehicle types, traffic movements, traffic volumes, and vehicle speeds.
  • Make safety improvements for parking and property access and impose restrictions on pedestrian movement between its two sites.
  • Adopt revised operating hours between 8 a.m. and 9:30 p.m.

Growing agribusiness operations, like Prairie Gardens, are important to the community and the County remains committed to helping them succeed.

These new safety measures will be in place until the end of 2022. Sturgeon County will continue working with Prairie Gardens as they implement land use and safety requirements prior to the 2023 season.

Background

On August 17, 2022, Sturgeon County served notice to Prairie Gardens that the stop order issued in October 2021 was being enforced with adjusted restrictions (occupancy and hours of operation limits). This was due to ongoing public safety concerns and non-compliance with previous commitments relating to occupancy limits during defined hours, and requirements to confirm parking, traffic, and access improvements.

This meant Prairie Gardens was not able to continue intensive agricultural operations, including greenhouse, u-pick, and market gardens, or agritourism operations including corn maze, hayrides, and other small-scale events. The stop order did not limit Prairie Gardens’ ability to raise and cultivate crops and livestock. It was also able to continue with small-scale consumer visitations and product sales, provided those activities occurred on their property and within the daily visitor limit.

Supporting agribusiness and agritourism

Sturgeon County is actively working to support producers in diversifying their revenue sources through agribusiness and agritourism activities. Learn more at sturgeoncounty.ca/AgriReview.

We have prepared the following information in response to public inquiries.

  • Why did the County take this action against Prairie Gardens? 

    Sturgeon County received multiple complaints in recent years related to Prairie Gardens including, but not limited to, the following:

    • noise from the property
    • high volumes of traffic accessing and leaving the site, at times in an unsafe manner
    • trespassing by visitors and guests onto neighbouring properties
    • vehicle and pedestrian traffic issues, including pedestrians walking and/or vehicles parking on the highway
    • failure to meet Alberta Safety Codes requirements to ensure public safety

    Sturgeon County had been working with Prairie Gardens for years to help them resolve permit and public safety issues. Even after issuing the stop order in fall 2021, the County entered into an agreement with Prairie Gardens that would allow them to continue operations while taking the necessary steps to address the public safety issues and permitting requirements.

  • Public safety concerns

    Prairie Gardens can accommodate parking for roughly 100 vehicles (50 at its main entrance and 50 in its overflow parking area). This did not provide enough parking space for visitors, especially at peak times.

    When there wasn’t available parking space in these lots, visitors often parked along Lily Lake Road – a single-lane highway with narrow shoulders. To reach the main entrance, those parking in the overflow area or on the road had to walk along Lily Lake Road for more than five minutes, or nearly half a mile. The shoulders of the road are narrow and there is limited space for pedestrians and vehicles to share the road safely.

    Parking on Lily Lake Road is not allowed according to section 43(2) of the Traffic Safety Act, which is provincial legislation.

  • Did the County work with Prairie Gardens to resolve issues before their season?

    Sturgeon County worked with Prairie Gardens for years to assist them in resolving permit and public safety issues. Even after issuing the stop order in fall 2021, the County entered into a legal agreement with Prairie Gardens that would allow them to continue operations while taking the necessary steps to address public safety issues and permitting requirements.

  • Who is responsible for traffic improvements near Prairie Gardens?

    Traffic improvements are the responsibility of business owners when their business is the source of increased traffic. Traffic improvements can include road and parking upgrades to meet the demand their business is creating. For example, if a business expects a lot of vehicles coming to and from their business throughout the day, they may be required to pay for a new turning lane so vehicles can access the property safely.

    For clarity, farmers who have traditional agricultural activities would likely not have to provide for these types of improvements as their operations generally do not generate significant visits from the public. It is only when the activities move beyond traditional farming and attracts hundreds of visitors a day would this become a consideration, and when these activities need to be considered in terms of neighbour quality of life.

  • Timeline of actions

    • Prior years: Sturgeon County requested Prairie Gardens address permit and infrastructure concerns related to land use, building safety codes, parking, access and intersections, and related public safety issues. Numerous safety and nuisance complaints were received and investigated over time.
    • October 15, 2021: As a result of the validated complaints, the County issued a stop order. Instead of enforcing the stop order, the County entered into a legal agreement – a forbearance agreement – with Prairie Gardens so they could continue operating while taking steps to address the public safety and permitting issues. The forbearance agreement set daily vehicle and visitor limits, outlined necessary safety measures and detailed information submission requirements.
    • November 23, 2021: Prairie Gardens appealed the stop order with the Subdivision and Development Appeal Board (SDAB).
    • December 3, 2021: The SDAB issued its decision to uphold the stop order and the terms of the forbearance agreement, and set the deadline to comply with conditions to Oct. 22, 2022.
    • August 13 and 14, 2022: Sturgeon County received new complaints related to safety and nuisance issues. Through the investigation of these concerns, the County verified that Prairie Gardens did not comply with the conditions of the forbearance agreement. It did not comply with the daily vehicle and visitor limits, measures to address pedestrian and vehicle safety, and submission-related conditions.
    • August 17, 2022: Sturgeon County served notice to Prairie Gardens that the stop order issued in October 2021 would be enforced because Prairie Gardens breached conditions of the forbearance agreement. Instead of imposing a full closure of public-facing services, Sturgeon County expanded conditions, imposing a daily limit of 100 visitors between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
    • August 2022: After being notified that Sturgeon County would enforce the stop order, Prairie Gardens announced its intention to stop operations.
    • September 23, 2022: Prairie Gardens submitted information requested over several months, and Sturgeon County quickly reached an agreement so Prairie Gardens can resume its operations for the rest of the 2022 season. For 2023, intersection and parking upgrades that will ensure the safety of the public are required.  
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