2017 Soybean Harvest

2017 Soybean Harvest

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Saskatchewan Court allows recreational development in ranchland to go forward

A number of ranch land owners in the R.M. of Loon Lake, Saskatchewan asked the Court of Queen's Bench to quash or overturn by-laws that rezoned 44 acres owned by Kenneth and Patricia Prosser from agricultural to recreational use.  In order to allow for development proposed by the Prossers, the R.M. needed to change the Land Use Concept Map and Zoning District Map, which establish the general land use and development goals of the R.M. as set out in its Basic Planning Statement.

The landowners first challenged the by-laws on the basis that they were illegal due to a lack of substance.  They asserted that the bylaws were passed for an illegal purpose, that being solely for the economic consideration of allowing the recreational development.  The Court ruled that economic considerations were not the sole considerations of the R.M. council in passing the by-laws.

The second challenge was on the basis that the by-laws were not passed according to the proper process.  The Court disagreed.

The third challenge was that the by-laws were inconsistent with the general goal of the Basic Planning Statement, which is to maintain the agricultural character of the municipality by protecting prime agricultural land from being taking out of production, restricting lakeshore development to properties already zoned lakeshore development and not allowing lakeshore development within one mile of intensive livestock operations.  The R.M. acknowledged the importance of these points in the Basic Planning Statement, but argued that they should not be to the absolute exclusion of all other development contemplated within the Statement.  The Court agreed this was a reasonable interpretation of the Statement.

The fourth challenge by the landowners was based on minimum distance separation requirements related to intensive livestock operations.  The Court found that the requirements did not preclude development of a recreational subdivision and noted that the proposed development was to be on marginal grazing land rather than prime agricultural land.  The livestock facilities affected were not considered intensive by the R.M. council.  The Court reviewed this issue and found that this decision of the council was reasonable.

The fifth challenge to the by-laws was that they lacked landowner support.  The Court confirmed that it was for the R.M. council to decide what is in the best interests of the R.M. as a whole.  The public had been given an opportunity to be heard on the proposed development, but the decision was to be made by the councillors.

The sixth challenge by the landowners was that the site conditions were not suitable for the proposed development.  The Court found there was a lack of evidence to support this position.  The members of council viewed the site and the conditions of the site and reached a "constructive and reasonable decision" that the site was suitable for the development.

The seventh basis for challenging the by-laws was that there was insufficient demand for development of this sort to warrant a new development.  The Court found this was a "narrow and unrealistic approach" to what is in the best interest of the R.M. as a whole.  Members of council were aware of a "strong demand for lakeshore lots in this area of Saskatchewan".

The eighth and final basis for challenge by the landowners was an alleged failure by the council to have regard to concerns set out in section 10.1 of the Basic Planning Statement (development review criteria).  Based on affidavit evidence from the R.M., the Court found that those concerns were considered in the passing of the by-laws.

Justice Acton of the Queen's Bench concluded as follows:
Based upon the law in Saskatchewan as previously stated, the decision of council in amending the Land Use Concept Map and the Zoning Bylaw must be reasonable.

The decision of the council of the R.M. was reasonable, transparent and well thought out based on its jurisdiction and the reasons set out earlier in this judgment. Council has shown an understanding of the sometimes competing concerns respecting the maintaining of primary agricultural land, the encouragement of development of agricultural activities, and the need to develop lakeshore developments on marginal lands adjoining bodies of water for recreational purposes.

The applicants are unhappy with the proposed development. They have ranched for generations in the peaceful solitude and tranquillity of the area.

Their desire to maintain this lifestyle is understandable.

However, council has a responsibility to all inhabitants of the R.M. It must make decisions based on the best interests of all of the inhabitants of the R.M. As stated in s. 31 of the PDA, the Official Community Plan is to provide a comprehensive policy framework to guide the physical, environmental, economic, social and cultural development of the municipality. This is a broad and general policy which must guide the R.M.

Council has decided that the approval of this recreational development is in the long-term best interest for the advancement of the respondent municipality without preventing the continued use and development of the ranch lands in the area by local residents.

Councils decision is in a range of reasonable, possible decisions.
Read the decision at: Morton v Loon Lake (Rural Municipality No 561).