The Woodlands County Municipal Planning Commission approved a development application at its January 19 meeting. The application was for a year-round business comprising ten small all-weather off-grid cabins to provide a ‘quiet and wild experience’. In his permit application, the applicant, Ray Hilts, explained that guests would access the rental cabins by walking from a parking area and that they would develop pathways throughout the property.
The application stated that “each cabin site will include a small cabin approximately 200 to 250 square feet, heated by a wood stove and capable of accommodating two to four people.” He also said there would be an external toilet at each site and the cabins would be battery powered for a fridge and lighting. “Each cabin will include a vault-style lavatory and storage space for gray water,” reads the application, which also stated that black and gray water would be removed and transported to a disposal facility. Drinking water would be carried when booking cabins.
Joan Slootweg, Community Services and Planning Manager, explained the app in more detail. “This is an intensive recreational use for a ten rental cabin accommodation facility, accessory structure for storage, walking paths, parking area and signage on the northeast portion 5912 at the west of the fifth. The plot consists of 64.39 acres. She said Woodlands County recently rezoned the area from the Country Residential District to the Rural Recreation District.
“We pretty much followed what we would do for discretionary use. We have sent letters to adjacent landowners informing them of the development as well as referrals to the various agencies we typically deal with. It is a permitted use,” she said. “At the discretion of the development officer, we presented it to the Municipal Planning Commission. We mentioned a few different departments, our Department of Infrastructure, Alberta Health Services, and Alberta Environment and Parks. We have received feedback from our Forestry Infrastructure department regarding the construction of the approach, just to ensure that any construction meets the standards and specifications outlined in our design guidelines and construction standards at the developer’s expense. Further, stating that parking for all vehicles must be kept on the site itself and not be on county road allowances.
Slootweg said Alberta Environment and Parks had no concerns. “They had indicated at the time of rezoning that all proposed uses within the parcel itself should remain within the boundaries. If he has any desire to expand and perhaps consider building trails on public land, then he will have to apply to the province for any type of recreational lease.
Slootweg said Alberta Health Services had not responded regarding the request, but added that since this is a commercial operation with accommodations, they will need a permit through them. . “We announced it for two weeks. We just had a person come to the counter asking where the exact location was. He has no concerns about what is on offer, and we have never received any letters from adjacent landowners.
Councilor Bruce Prestidge said he had no problem with this as long as he complied with zoning and planning requirements. Member Tracy Mitchell agrees with Prestidge. “We approved one later last year with the same idea. It was rental cabins with a few rustic sites, and the terms are almost the same, so I’m definitely in favor of that. The commission voted unanimously with twenty-five conditions in place.
Conditions include that permanent occupancy is not permitted and that signage must be kept secure, clean and tidy. Any increase in the number of cabins would require a new permit, and Hilts would require bear-proof trash cans in each cabin or in a central location.
Mayor John Burrows said it was good to see new business come into the county. “Any time you see a development like this happening in the county, it’s great.” He said it’s also been great to see Woodlands County property owners finding creative ways to use their property as a business venture. “There are opportunities there, and the economy is changing, and things are changing a bit around us. We’re going to have to get creative, and Alberta is full of creative people. Woodlands County doesn’t exception to this.
For those interested in seeing what opportunities exist and the do’s and don’ts of starting a business, Mayor Burrows said there are all kinds of supports at the municipal level. “First, you have our Economic Development Officer Bert Roach. If you are considering starting a business in the county, this is probably the first person I would talk to. They can direct you to our development managers and help you establish financial contacts, such as Community Futures. There are a lot of supports available that I was not aware of before joining the Council.
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