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Sustainable Rural Smart Development: The Balancing Act

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Regional perspectives are changing the way we approach regional topics, including water planning, open space & habitat preservation, economic development, and housing. Emerging issues, such as climate change, renewable energy, and public health, are stepping into the regional planning field[1]. Although land-use and zoning regulations remain at the local level, today regional plans have evolved to address development patterns and land use. Regional development approaches can provide understanding on the dynamics of rural and peri-urban territories, or fringe areas.

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Many of the standards and principles that are applied to local planning initiatives can be applied also to regional planning and some of them in the opposite direction. For example, consider the possible contributions of location theories, such as the importance of physical proximity in growth mechanisms, in the context of these fringe areas and their development. One such approach to sustainable development in rural and fringe areas is the incorporation of rural smart growth principles and integrated regional planning approaches into Sustainable Rural Smart Development – Rural Smart.

Rural Smart growth is:

  1. Smart, by supporting fostering knowledge transfer and innovation in farming, forestry, and rural areas, skills and promoting resource efficiency and supporting the shift towards a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy in driving economic sectors, by recognizing the role of local expertise and consider how to utilize and develop it, but also by providing incentives for social innovation promoting social inclusion, poverty reduction and economic development;
  2. Sustainable, by increasing resource efficiency, maintaining the food, feed and renewables production base, providing environmental public goods, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing carbon sequestration, and development of renewable energy projects and green infrastructure, safeguard sustainable land management, and restoring, preserving and enhancing ecosystems related to farming and forestry; and
  3. Inclusive, by unlocking local potential in promoting food-chain organization, including the processing and marketing of agricultural products, animal welfare and risk management in agriculture, expanding rural economies, growing regional markets and jobs, and broadening opportunities to accompany agricultural innovation and diversification.

Rural Smart practices are adapted to specific local contexts with the participation of a broad array of stakeholders – residents, businesses, developers, elected officials – in decision-making processes concerning the future of their communities.

In particular, considering how territorial development is envisioned today – the coexistence of different land uses, and coalescence, in certain areas – and their associated implications require the adoption of new approaches to development strategies that go beyond the traditional divide between the old and the new.

The ASP provides a framework for subsequent subdivision and development lands in the urban fringe as part of a proactive approach applied in early stages of industrial development projects. This framework incorporates approaches to sustainable development including low-impact and cluster development resulting in a higher quality industrial development in connection to a larger community.

Additional design guidelines guide development and facilitate higher performance green buildings and operations, green infrastructure, and sustainable design approaches thus encouraging developing efficient industrial facilities and processes that:

  1. Systemically optimize material, energy, and water flows throughout industrial supply chains.
  1. Maximize productive use of input resources and by-products, waste is non-productive.
  2. Minimize impacts on the environment by moving toward zero waste and emissions.
  3. Integrate sustainable design in facilities and sites.
  4. Utilize clean production and eco-efficient technologies and processes.
  5. Maximize use of renewable energy systems and sustainably produced feedstocks.
  6. Establish the business relationships to share amenities and facilities.

This approach to industrial development yields a triple tier of benefits for:


  1. Greater resource efficiency equals decreased operating costs.
  1. Enhanced competitiveness and potential for revenue generation.
  2. Increased return on capital investments and asset value.
  3. Energy security and independence.
  4. Stronger connections with suppliers, customers, and community.
  5. Access to eco-product markets – capitalizes on the growing consumer demand greener products.
  6. Reduced future costs to business and community such as clean-up liabilities.


  1. More sustainable industrial operations and local prosperity creation (business, jobs, and capital).
  1. Can strengthen existing business base and enhance recruiting.
  2. Reduced long-term infrastructure and operations costs.
  3. Reduced emissions resulting in improved community health.
  4. Improved community industry relations, quality job creation, and workforce attraction.
  5. Enhanced community identity through eco-branding.
  6. Strengthens local economy through regionally produced feed stocks, products, and services.


  1. Less waste, emissions, and pollution.
  1. More efficient use of energy and resources results in higher levels of clean production.
  2. Superior performance, goes beyond regulatory thresholds, and can help streamline regulatory processes.
  3. Replacement of fossil based energy and materials.
  4. Increased use of renewable energy and sustainable materials.
  5. Industrial system and supply-chain pollution prevention versus facility-based approach.

1.1 Goals and Objectives

The purpose of the East Industrial Hub Area Structure Plan (EIH-ASP) is to identify those lands within the plan area, as shown in Map 1, where multi-lot housing, industry / business or other types of development may be considered. The main goal of the ASP is to provide a policy framework indicating the preferred land uses, road access improvements, and servicing requirements to ensure orderly planning in the area.

The ASP outlines sustainable development standards for industrial development and compatible uses in proximity of industrial development consistent with IDP and ASP policies, and the County’s Municipal Development Plan to respond to future subdivision and development proposals.

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In order to achieve this main goal of providing a framework for orderly, economic, diverse, and sustainable development of land amongst other things that support the benefits for business, community and the environment, this ASP Bylaw sets the following objectives:

  1. To describe the land uses for the area, both in general and with respect to specific parts of the area;
  2. To describe the density of population proposed for the area, both in general and with respect to specific parts of the area;
  3. To outline the general location of major transportation routes and public utilities;
  4. To prescribe and regulate for each part of the area the purposes for which land and buildings may be respectively subdivided, developed, and used;
  5. To implement the policies of the statutory plans of the County of Vermilion River; and
  6. To establish the procedures for making amendments to this Bylaw.

The East Industrial Hub Area Structure Plan is partially located within the intermunicipal development plan area with the City of Lloydminster. Each municipality already has a number of supportive policies in place. Therefore, fostering knowledge exchange will support the overall policy harmonization work to balance, as far as possible, the differences between the pace of growth and/or the level of development.

[1] EMERGING TRENDS IN REGIONAL PLANNING, PAS 586. Piro, Rocky PhD, FAICP, and Leiter, Robert FAICP, Eds, with Rooney, Sharon AICP. Chicago, IL: American Planning Association, January 2017.

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