Agribusiness and Agritourism Review

Council started the Agribusiness and Agritourism Review to look at how it can best support and grow local agribusiness and agritourism in the County. Sturgeon County is an agricultural powerhouse invested in positive growth for its residents and businesses. As it embraces the future and reflects agribusiness and agritourism land uses in its Land Use Bylaw, the County remains committed to respecting its agricultural history.

Sturgeon County is considering a bylaw to support and grow agribusiness and agritourism. The proposed bylaw is based on the recommendations of the Agribusiness and Agritourism Review Task Force, a community task force that includes members of the public with experience and expertise in agribusiness and agritourism.

Upcoming public hearing

The proposed/updated bylaw is going to a second public hearing on Thursday, Oct. 6 at 5 p.m. in Sturgeon County Council Chambers (9613 100 St. in Morinville). This is your chance to provide your thoughts on the proposed bylaw. Learn more and find out how you can share your input at the public hearing.

Following the public hearing, the proposed bylaw will go to Council for further consideration and possible approval.

Proposed Bylaw

The proposed bylaw is meant to balance the diversification needs of agribusiness and agritourism operators with public safety and quality of life.

If the proposed bylaw is approved…

  1. We’d support diversified agriculture activities on agricultural land.
    This means landowners could apply for value-added agricultural processing – such as a jam processing facility from fruit grown on-site – and retail sales of those agricultural or related products. Operators could also apply to host experiences and events related to farming or farm life, such as farm table dinners or corn mazes. Operators would not be able to hold commercial events that are not focused on agriculture – such as weddings, retreats, ceremonies, and corporate functions – on agricultural land.
  2. We’d have clear rules for event venues in Sturgeon County.
    The bylaw would not allow event venues on agricultural land but would allow applications for event venues on lands that allow for more intensive agricultural or commercial uses.
  3. We’d have a new land use district that supports more intensive agricultural uses.
    This district is for event venues and diversified agriculture activities that would have more of an impact on local roads and neighbours due to the amount of traffic and visitors.

Members of the public shared their input on the proposed bylaw at a public hearing on June 14. The updated version of the bylaw reflects that input. Event venues would no longer be allowed on agricultural land; and we propose a new land use district that allows more intensive agricultural uses and event venues.

Common questions

  • What is diversified agriculture?

    Diversified agriculture is an agricultural use that brings more traffic and has more impact to the land compared to traditional agricultural activities.

    It includes value-added agricultural processing, retail sales of agricultural products, and commercial experiences related to farming or farm life. It does not include events that are not primarily agricultural in nature, such as weddings, retreats, ceremonies and corporate functions.

  • If approved, what would this bylaw mean for existing agribusiness/agritourism operators?

    The proposed bylaw gives agriculture operators more opportunity to expand and diversify their revenue sources and gives clear guidelines for developing land and buildings.

    Existing agribusiness and agritourism operators with proper approvals wouldn’t be impacted by the bylaw. Farmers who only cultivate crops or raise livestock would not be impacted by this bylaw. It would not impact agricultural producers’ ability to farm their land, or their ability to hold a private event, like a family wedding or reunion, on their property.

What We Heard

June 14 public hearing

Council provided first reading on the Diversified Agriculture Amendments to Land Use Bylaw 1385/17 (Bylaw 1597/22) on May 3. It held a public hearing on June 14 to gather public input.

This version of the bylaw would have allowed event venues to be located within Agriculture (AG) districted parcels as a discretionary use, meaning operators could apply for an event venue and the permit/conditions could be appealed by affected parties. This item was the most concerning to those opposed to the proposed bylaw.

In response to public feedback, administration updated the proposed bylaw and no longer proposes to allow event venues in the AG district. In addition, event venues were changed from a permitted use to a discretionary use in the AG2 district 

In total, 14 attendees were opposed to the proposed bylaw and 12 were in favour. Of those opposed, we heard concerns related to event venues in agricultural areas and the impacts this could have on residents’ quality of life and infrastructure. Specific concerns included noise, increased traffic, and the potential for trespassing. Of those in favour, we heard support for allowing agricultural producers to diversify their revenue sources through agribusiness and agritourism activities, such as on-site processing, farm tables, educational activities and more, to maintain viability.

Timeline

Timeline of Agribusiness and Agritourism Review and proposed bylaw

March 9, 2021: Sturgeon County Council initiated the Agribusiness and Agritourism Review and passed the Agribusiness and Agritourism Review Task Force Bylaw (Bylaw 1538/21). This bylaw created a task force, which includes seven community members and Council representatives.

May 11, 2021: community members were selected by Council after an application and interview process. The task force members were selected because of their expertise and experience in the agribusiness and agritourism sectors within Sturgeon County.

June 2021 April 2022: the task force worked with independent consultants to conduct the Agribusiness and Agritourism Review.

April 12, 2022: Council accepted the Agribusiness and Agritourism Review Task Force Final Recommendations Report as information. Council instructed administration to bring forward amendments to the County’s Land Use Bylaw that reflect the task force’s recommendations.

May 3, 2022: Council gave first reading of Bylaw 1597/22.

June 14, 2022: Sturgeon County held a public hearing, allowing the community to provide feedback.

Sept. 13, 2022: Council gave second reading on the amended Bylaw 1597/22.

Oct. 6, 2022: Sturgeon County will hold another public hearing, allowing the community to provide feedback.