Land subdivisions seem to be a hot topic for discussion these days, so this article addresses some questions with respect to changes in the “First Parcel Out” regulations within of Rocky View County (formerly known as the M.D. of Rocky View).
“First Parcel Out” subdivisions are considered under the Rocky View Municipal Development Plan (MDP) section 14.10 as “a single residential parcel created from a previously subdivided quarter section”. They are One of the more common planning applications received, and are the basis is to allow agricultural producers/residents to separate a farmstead or home site from the larger agricultural land base. Typically “First Parcel Out” subdivisions, providing they conform to all applicable County planning policies, are less complex than other types of development or subdivision applications.
After a “First Parcel Out” subdivision has occurred within the quarter section, further subdivisions are more challenging and an application requires substantial evaluation using different criteria.
Making an application for land subdivision is a complex but not overwhelming undertaking which can have desirable results. The process entails splitting off a parcel of land from a quarter section of land, under a separate title. A quarter section being 160 acres and measuring 1/2 mile x 1/2 mile.
When evaluating applicable land use district redesignation and subdivision applications, several aspects are looked at and evaluated. Applications must conform to provincial and municipal regulations such as:
- The Municipal Government Act (provincial)
- The Subdivision and Development Regulation (provincial)
- The Alberta Water Act (provincial)
- Rocky View County Land Use Bylaw (municipal)
- Rocky View County Municipal Development Plan (municipal)
Applications are circulated to a number of internal County groups and external agencies to which the application may have an impact on or infringe on specific jurisdictions. Examples of stakeholders include:
- Fire and emergency services
- School boards
- Adjacent municipalities
- Oil and gas
- Utility companies
- Provincial agencies
Where the application is proposed may affect nearby residents, notification of the application is sent to adjacent landowners and advertised in the local newspaper. Affected landowners are also given an opportunity to submit comments or speak at a deciding meeting. Some common concerns might include:
- Concern over agricultural land becoming residential
- Feelings of loss of privacy and safety
- Impact on property values or character of area
- There are also a number of technical issues primarily deal with infrastructure and construction issues. Examples of these are:
- Storm water management
- Adequate servicing solutions (Water and sewage)
- Access and possible impacts to the road network
- Appropriate area for building (topography, grade, sufficient setbacks)
The Roles of Rocky View County’s Administration and Council
- Advises Applicants
- Processes received applications
- Facilitates input from public and affected agencies, such as utilities, provincial, recreation, school boards, etc.
- Makes a final recommendation, but offers other options for Council’s decision
Council: Renders final decision on an application, however may delegate this authority to Administration. The decision is based on:
- Recommendations, options, and information provided by Administration
- applicant’s testimony
- Comments and concerns received from affected land owners and stakeholders
“First Parcel Out” considerations (Policy)
The Rocky View County Municipal Development Plan Bylaw C-4840-97 is the primary planning document that guides decision on these applications, and specifically is addressed in sections 4.11, 4.12, 5.2.1 to 5.2.4 of the bylaw.
The Rocky View County C-4841-97 Land Use Bylaw outlines the requirements of the applicable land use districts, specifically:
- Section 45 Farmstead District (F)
- Section 47 Residential Two District (R-2)
- Section 48 Residential Three District (R-3)
First parcel out falls under two categories
- New residential Farmstead
Farmsteads - where there is an existing residential site, that has been used in conjunction with the agricultural operation, that will be separated from the quarter section. Among the criteria to be considered as a Farmstead:
- Existing dwelling has to be in existence for 10 years or more prior to application
- The parcel has direct access to a roadway
- Parcel is generally limited in size to original farmstead site
- Requires redesignation to Farmstead (F)
- The proposed parcel is limited in size to the original farmstead as defined by physical site characteristics (Shelter belts, vegetation, land needed to access site).
New residential Districts – The new parcel will be created within the quarter section to allow for a new home or to accommodate an existing home that does not meet farmstead criteria (i.e. newly built homes). Among the criteria to be considered new Residential:
- The land must constitute a single parcel created from a previously unsubdivided quarter section.
- The land must be designated as a residential land use district ( R2, R3).
- Be generally 4 acres in size, but no more than 19.9 acres.
- 1.62 hectares (4 acres) minimum in size.
In both cases exceptions can be made for larger parcels in order to accommodate a small agricultural use, an existing residential site that does not qualify as a Farmstead, or a fragmented or isolated portion of land, with the provision that the maximum allowed size has to be less than 8.09 hectares (20 acres).
If an application is approved, conditions are required to be completed by the landowner/applicant prior to the County authorizing (endorsing) registration of the new parcel with Alberta Land Titles. Typical conditions may include:
- Plan of survey done for the new parcel
- Any outstanding taxes to be paid
- Any new or existing accessing to be built/upgraded to County standards
- Registration of any easements and Right of Ways
- Confirmation of adequate water
- Real Property Report (RPR) confirming location of existing structures
- Conditions are required to be completed within a year, however additional time may be granted at the discretion of the County.
Note on Municipal Reserve and Transportation Levies
The County Transportation Levy Bylaw 6935-2010 allows for financing of new or expanded roads impacted by subdivision and new development. Levies are collected on certain subdivisions and commercial/industrial development. “First Parcel Out” subdivisions are currently exempt from transportation levies.
As per the Municipal Government Act, a municipality may take 10% of the area being subdivided, either as land or it’s raw land assessed market value (cash in lieu). This is collected for the purposes of providing recreation, schools, or public open space within the County.
Section 663 of the “MGA” however, exempts reserve being collected in certain situations, including when a “First Parcel Out” of a quarter section occurs. This is referred to as the Municipal Reserve Transportation Offsite Levy.
Additional “First Parcel Out” considerations
- Boundaries generally include the original farmstead site
- All buildings to be checked to ensure applicable setbacks conformed to new boundaries
Making application for Farmstead separations:
The initial application fee of $1200. This includes the redesignation application if required. If the subdivision is approved final endorsement fee is $675. The total cost for the application is $1875 and is GST exempt.
For “First Parcel Out” applications that aren’t considered as a Farmstead separation:
The initial application fee of $1200 and includes redesignation application if required. If the subdivision is approved, the final endorsement fee is $1025. The total cost of application is $2225 and is GST exempt.
Application fees do not include outside costs, such as surveying, studies, testing, etc. If the correct land use designation is in place, the total application cost is reduced by $650.
As a rule of thumb, providing that your application meets criteria of the applicable policies and subject to Council’s decision, “First Parcel Out” subdivision applications are generally less complex than other types of subdivision applications. The majority of these applications can and are made by landowners with little planning experience or background. The general timeframe is approximately 6-8 months for decision. If you are contemplating a “First Parcel Out” subdivision application or any other subdivision application you are encouraged to set up a preliminary meeting with staff at Rocky View County. Special thanks to Rocky View County for assisting with the valuable information provided in this article.
For more information or assistance with respect to “First Parcel Out” land subdivisions please call.