During their regular meeting on June 23, Taber council discussed Bylaw 11-2014, named “Temporary Work Camps”, including a proposed open house which would allow local residents to learn more about the issue and to have a say in the decision making process.
Town planning and development manager Cory Armfelt said the issue has been brought up by a member of the community, but the proposed bylaw would simply pave the way for work camps in the future and is not directed at any single entity.
“There was a party who has come to us,” he said.
“In the past he had work camps and either put them in the Municipal District of Taber or somewhat hidden them amongst the fabric of the Town of Taber unbeknownst to anybody. He doesn’t want to do that anymore.”
During discussion, Coun. Jack Brewin asked if there were any plans to make a permanent settlement, because if it was only used part of the year there could be maintenance issues.
Coun. Randy Sparks said the proposed bylaw clearly stated any buildings would have to be removed following the harvest when they would no longer be in use.
“When the project has ended, those buildings are supposed to be removed,” he said. “Not stored there.”
“It would be pretty hard for me to think that somebody is going to build some permanent housing there, because they’d need to be removed every fall then.”
The bylaw states a a predetermined number of people would be allowed to take up residence in a temporary work camp.
Armfelt indicated there are currently three mechanisms in place to ensure those numbers are adhered to.
“I’m really the weakest (mechanism),” he said.
“There’s bylaw enforcement, which you could write up into the development permit, but the real punchline would be Alberta Health Services.”
Armfelt added AHS has the ability to drop large fines on anyone who was not in compliance with the standards set out.
Coun. Rick Popadynetz asked if more information was available through other municipalities which might have similar camps. Armfelt responded there was some research done on the camps themselves, but from an agricultural standpoint there are not many municipalities involved in something similar.
“The further north you go, the more you see these added to land use bylaws,” he said. “But from an agricultural standpoint, this is really kind of new.”
Mayor Henk De Vleiger said there is already a lot of regulations on temporary work camps from a government standpoint, but he was not in favour of the idea of population caps on work camps.
“If you have 300 people, I would love to see that,” he said, adding if it was a concern for local residents the bylaw could be changed in the future.
Following discussion, council passed first reading of the bylaw, and set a public hearing for July 21.