Grande Prairie Alberta - City of Grande Prairie council will vote on whether or not to accept amendments to the Land Use Bylaw (LUB) regarding railway corridors.
There are two corridors that split the city into thirds, a north-south rail line running to Hinton where it connects to CN Rail's transcontinental line, and a westward line travelling towards Hythe.
While CN is federally regulated, it is the city's responsibility to regulate development along rail corridors.
"The City of Grande Prairie land use bylaw did not, and still does not, have any regulation that govern development in close proximity to the rail lines.
And so far, all the development applications that have been submitted over the years, have been dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
Most of it was smaller sized, some of it are a little bit bigger, but they were all contained within the existing areas of the city.
"Obviously, the issue of not having consistent regulations is that you end up having a deformed pattern of development and you don't have any consistency in the long run," said senior planner Waleed Albakry.
Albakry shared with the community growth committee the recent development application for the Kensington subdivision (Township Road 71 and Range Road 6) which detailed plans that would put a build too close to the westward rail line.
"The issue of having such a residential component in close proximity to the railway line is that we don't have regulations to deal with it. When it comes to the development stage, unless you have regulations in the land use bylaw, which is the regulatory tool, they're not easy to enforce because the land use bylaw, unlike the ASP (Area Structure Plan) or OP (Outline Plan) which are considered statutory plans, the LUB follows according to the Municipal Government Act adding specific regulations and requirements for what could happen on privately owned land. The best way to ensure safety for development close to railway lines is to have it regulated in the LUB," said Albakry.
Since the Lake Megantic derailment in 2013, municipalities and the public have become more concerned regarding rail safety.
Albakry said there have been 30 rail incidents within the city since 2004, citing the Transportation Safety Board.
Of those events, 16 were derailments or collisions within the rail yard, and five of which occurred outside the yard between 2008 and 2015 (three at the 97 Street crossing alone).
None of the incidents resulted in injuries or catastrophe.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities and Railway Association of Canada have created a set of proximity guidelines and best practices for development near railways that include a 30 metre setback for residential buildings with a 2.5 m high earthen berm to protect against derailments.
The guidelines also suggest noise walls, security fencing, and perimeter foundation setback to mitigate noise and vibration.
Regarding train noise, the city is currently looking at measures to mitigate train whistling at crossings.
There will likely be two crossings in the Kensington subdivision in the south (84 Avenue) and in the north (67 Avenue).
Administration will work on its LUB amendments and present its findings to council for final approval on 20 Mar 2017.