Code of the West
The Code of the West was first chronicled by the famous western writer, Zane Grey. The men and women were bound by an unwritten code of conduct. The values of integrity and self-reliance guided their decisions, actions and interactions. In keeping with that spirit, we offer this information to help the citizens of the Municipal District of Pincher Creek No. 9 who wish to follow in the footsteps of those rugged individualists by living outside city limits.
This document is not intended to dissuade anyone from living in the country, but it is important to know that life in the country is very different from life in the city.
Rural governments provide a different type of service than that provided in urban areas. The following information is provided to help make an educated and informed decision when choosing to purchase or develop land outside the boundaries of incorporated cities, towns or villages.
- Agriculture is an important business in the Municipal District of Pincher Creek No. 9. If you choose to live among the farms and ranches of our rural countryside, do not expect the M.D. to intervene in the normal day-to-day operations of your agri-business neighbours.
- Farmers often work around the clock, especially during planting and harvest time. Dairy operators sometimes milk without stopping and hay is often swathed or baled at night. Low-flying planes and crop duster planes may fly overhead during irregular hours. It is possible that adjoining agricultural uses may disturb your peace and quiet.
- Land preparation and other operations can cause dust, especially during windy and dry weather.
- Chemicals (mainly fertilizers and herbicides) are often used in growing crops. You may be sensitive to these substances and a few people actually have severe allergic reactions.
- Animals and their manure can cause objectionable odours. What else can we say?
- The Municipal District of Pincher Creek No. 9 has a closed range law, except for specific roads. This means that your neighbour’s cattle, sheep or other livestock should not be on your property. It is the responsibility of the rancher or farmer to keep his/her livestock off your property, as it is your responsibility to ensure that your pets, and/or livestock remain on your own land.
- Before buying land, you should know if it has noxious weeds that may be expensive to control and that you may be required to control. Some plants are poisonous to horses and other livestock. The Agricultural and Environmental Services Department will be able to provide some information with regard to weeds on properties located in the M.D.
- Animals, including farm animals can be dangerous, bulls, stallions, pigs, rams, etc. can attack human beings. It is not safe to enter pens where animals are kept and persons should not access lands without the consent of the landowner.
- There is a limit to the amount of grazing the land can handle. The MD’s Agricultural Services Board, and the Provincial Governments Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development can assist with grazing concerns.
- There can be both positive and negative aspects to the physical characteristics of your property. Trees are a wonderful environmental amenity, but can also involve your home in a fire. Homes built in forested areas face the very real potential of being damaged or destroyed by wildland fires. Here are a few simple things a property owner can do to reduce the risk and danger:
- Clear land around the house of excess tress and ground Vegetation; a minimum 10 metre clear or “defensible space” around structures, consisting of maintained and watered lawn, pruned shrubs and trees can help mitigate the spread of wildland fires to buildings.
- Replace combustible roofs and other building materials with non-combustibles; store other combustible materials such as firewood away from your house.
- Maintain adequate access roads and driveways and remove overgrowth and flammable vegetation immediately adjacent to the traveled roadway.
- If you live in an area with a civic address, have it posted and visible at the intersection of your driveway and the M.D. road.
- Provide a reliable water supply.
- Develop a fire safety plan for your home and your family.
- Many fires start from initially controlled burns in barrels, brush piles, etc. It is important that all fires be attended at all times and to be certain the fire is completely out. Burning permits are required in the Municipal District of Pincher Creek No. 9 and can be obtained from the Pincher Creek Fire Hall.
- Respect the danger of fire in wildland areas by learning more about wildland fires and BE PREPARED. If you start a wildland fire, you will be responsible for paying the cost of extinquishing that fire. Please contact Emergency Services (403 627-5333) for more information.
- Steep slopes can slide in unusually wet weather. Large rocks can also roll down steep slopes and present a great danger to people and property.
- Expansive soils can buckle concrete foundations and twist steel I-beams. You can determine the soil conditions on your property if you have a soil test performed by a qualified professional. It is recommended that this test be completed before any development or construction on the property.
- North facing slopes or canyons rarely see direct sunlight in the winter. There is a possibility that snow will accumulate and not melt throughout the winter.
- The topography of the land will tell you where water will go in the case of heavy precipitation. Pay close attention to these areas in order to determine how water will flow on your land and develop accordingly.
- A flash flood may occur, especially during summer months and turn a dry gully into a river. It is wise to take this possibility into consideration when building. You need to ask if your property is in a flood zone. Development (construction) in a 1:100 year flood plain, as determined by Alberta Environment, is prohibited in the M.D.
- Winter and spring run-off can cause a very small creek to become a major river. Many residents use sand bags to protect their homes.
- Nature can provide you with some wonderful neighbours, such as deer and eagles that are positive additions to the environment. However, even “harmless” animals like a deer can cross the road unexpectedly and cause traffic accidents. Rural development often encroaches on the traditional habitat of animals/wildlife that can be dangerous or become a nuisance. You need to know how to deal with them safely and effectively. In general, it is best to enjoy wildlife from a distance. Let the animals be themselves, watch, but avoid chasing them or allowing your pets to do so. Also, know that if you do not handle your pet refuse and trash properly, it could cause problems for you, your neighbours and the wildlife.
- Many areas in the M.D. are open for hunting. Hunting, while providing recreational opportunities, is a tool for managing wildlife populations. It also involves individuals who may trespass, litter and fire guns. Property owners need to verify if their property is in a shooting or no shooting zone.
- Permits & Approvals: construction of residences and buildings in the M.D. require development permits. The permitting process helps assure you that your proposed project is in conformance with applicable M.D. by-laws and statutory plans and is consistent with requirements regulating property and uses such as setbacks, minimum frontage, potable water supply and sewage disposal systems. As well, permits are often required from other agencies, such as Alberta Transportation or Alberta Environment. Although the M.D. has no jurisdiction in these areas, it can usually assist you through the process. Before commencing construction, be sure you have obtained the appropriate permits.
- There are parcels of land in the M.D. that are separate for the purpose of taxation but are not considered legal lots in the sense that a building permit can be issued due to size and setback restrictions. What a property may be used for is also dependent on its zoning. When considering purchasing property located in the M.D., contacting the Development Department (627-3130) will enable the proposed purchaser to determine the correct zoning of the property and any development restrictions that may apply to it.
- Easements may require you to allow construction of roads, power lines, water lines, sewer lines, etc. across your land. Check these issues carefully by obtaining an up-to-date title for the property.
- Most property owners do not own the mineral rights under their property. Owners of minerals rights have the ability to change the surface characteristics in order to extract their minerals. It is very important to know what minerals may be located under the land and who owns them. Much of the rural land in the M.D. can be used for resource extractions, subject to current land use zoning standards.
- You may be provided with a plan of your property but unless the land has been surveyed and pins placed by a licenced surveyor, you cannot assume that the plan is accurate.
- Fences that separate properties can be misaligned with the property lines. A survey of the land is the only way to confirm the location of your property lines. Verification of the location of property lines is the responsibility of the property owner. Property lines disputes are a civil matter that the M.D. does not become involved in.
- Many subdivisions and developments have covenants that limit the use of the property. It is important to obtain a copy of the covenants (or confirm that there are none) and make sure that you can live with those rules. Also, a lack of covenants can cause problems between neighbours. The M.D. becomes involved in the enforcement only of those covenants that are registered in the name of the M.D.
- Storm water flows through most low areas at some time or another. If you build in these low areas, you may be flooded. If you fill in the low areas, you may be unintentionally relocating the floodwaters that could cause problems for others. This type of action requires special approvals from Alberta Environment. Proceeding without approvals could lead to private civil actions in court.
- Surrounding properties may not remain as they are today. You can check with the Planning Department (ORRSC 1-877-329-1387) and Development Department (403-627-3130) to find out if there is an area structure plan for the area, how neighbouring properties are currently zoned, and what future developments may be in the planning stages.
- Purchase of property may not give you the right to use the water from any streams or other sources crossing your land. Other users may have senior rights to the water that may limit your use, or you may be required to obtain an approval to access the water.
- (Items 12 – 13 should be verified with the Province) It is important to make sure you have sufficient water access to reflect operations to maintain fruit trees, pastures, gardens, livestock etc.
- Many creeks, streams, rivers and wetlands are regulated by either the Provincial or Federal Governments. These regulations establish setbacks and buffer zones adjacent to these various bodies of water. Natural vegetation cannot be disturbed in these areas. If you are contemplating development on property near water, marsh, or other wet areas, be sure to check with Public Lands Division, Alberta Environment, before commencing any work.
- Flowing and standing water can be a hazard, especially to young children. Many roadside ditches are also constructed to retain storm water flows, which can also be hazardous. Before you decide to locate your home near an active creek or stream, consider the possible danger to your family.
- Emergency response times for police, fire suppression, medical care, etc. cannot be guaranteed. Under some conditions, you may find that emergency response takes longer than in an urban area.
- There can be problems with the legal aspects of access, especially if you gain access across property belonging to others via privately owned easements or access roads. It is wise to obtain legal advice and understand the easements that may be necessary.
- You can experience problems with the maintenance and costs of maintaining your road. The Municipal District of Pincher Creek maintains 1,000 kilometers of roads, but many rural properties are served by privately owned access roads that are maintained by private parties or other landowners. There are some M.D. roads, not maintained by the M.D. year round – no grading or snow plowing. There are some public roads and rights-of -way that are not maintained by anyone. Make sure you know what type of road maintenance to expect and the service provider. The road quality needs to be appropriate for use by emergency response vehicles and is usually the responsibility of the landowner to construct and/or upgrade the access road to M.D. standards.
- Extreme weather conditions can destroy roads. Some public and private roads may not be built to current standards and may not be sufficient to withstand the test of time.
- Many large construction vehicles cannot navigate small, narrow roads. If you plan to build, it is prudent to check out construction access.
- School buses travel only on roads designated as school bus routes. If you live on a private road, you may need to drive your children to the nearest M.D. road or bus stop so they can get to school. Even so, buses travel on so many miles of roads that it is impossible to assign a higher priority to one school bus route than another. Be sure to check with your local school district.
- In extreme weather, even the M.D. maintained roads can become impassable. You may need a four-wheel drive vehicle to travel during these episodes, which could last for several days. School buses and other types of vehicles may not be able to travel during these times.
- Natural disasters, especially floods, can destroy roads. The Municipal District of Pincher Creek No. 9 repairs and maintains M.D. roads. Private roads and accesses are the responsibility of the landowners who use those roads. It is important that roads be constructed to set standards insuring that culverts are installed where appropriate, as seemingly slow-flowing “small” waterways can become raging torrents that wash out roads, bridges and culverts.
- Unpaved roads generate dust. If you reside near an unpaved road, you may want to have the road treated for dust suppression. Upon request, the Municipal District of Pincher Creek No. 9 may apply dust control product on Municipal roads, adjacent to a resident to suppress dust. No warranty is provided with dust control. The person requesting the service shall be charged a fee each time the dust control product is applied on the road.
- Unpaved roads are not always smooth, are often slippery when wet and muddy during the spring thaw. You may experience an increase in vehicle maintenance costs when you regularly travel on rural, M.D. roads. Potholes and washboards usually are created by traffic traveling too fast on unpaved roads.
- Check with Canada Post to determine the mail delivery system for your area. Contact the newspaper of your choice to determine methods of delivery in the rural area. Parcel and overnight package delivery may not be available for rural addresses. Confirm with the service providers as to the status of service in your area.
- Telephone communications can be a problem. If you have a private line, it may be difficult to obtain another line for FAX or computer modem uses. As well, cellular phones may not work in all areas.
- If sewer service is not available, as is generally the case in rural areas, you will need to use an approved on-site septic system or other treatment process. The type of soil you have for a leach-field will be very important in determining the cost and function of your system.
- You will need to find a water supply, sufficient to your needs. The most common sources of water in rural areas are private wells. Private wells are regulated by the Natural Resources Service, Alberta Environment. The cost for drilling and pumping can be considerable. The quality and quantity of well water can vary considerably from location to location and from season to season. It is strongly advised that you research this issue very carefully.
- Not all wells can be used for watering, landscaping and/or livestock. If you have other needs, make certain you have the proper approvals before you invest. It may also be difficult to find enough water to provide for your needs, even if you can secure the proper permit.
- Electrical service may not be readily available in every area of the Municipal District of Pincher Creek No. 9. It is important to determine the proximity of electrical power, as it can be very expensive to extend power lines to remote areas.
- It may be necessary to cross property owned by others in order to extend electrical service to your property in the most cost efficient manner. It is important to make sure that the proper easements are in place to allow lines to access your property.
- Electrical power may not be available in two-phase and three-phase service configurations. If you have special power requirements, it is important to know what level of service can be provided to your property.
- If you are purchasing land, with the plan to build at a future date, there is a possibility that electrical lines (and other utilities) may not be large enough to accommodate you if others connect during the time you wait to build.
- Power outages can occur in outlying areas with more frequency than in developed areas, particularly if power lines are difficult to access. A loss of electrical power can interrupt your supply of water from a well and the ability to utilize gray water or black water sewer systems. Interruptions in power may cause you to lose the food in your freezer or refrigerator, flooding from loss of use of your sump pump and may cause problems with computers and other sensitive electrical devices as well.
- House to house trash removal is provided in the Hamlets of Lundbreck and Beaver Mines. In most cases, your trash dumpster may be several miles from your home. Your option may be to haul your trash yourself to the Crowsnest/Pincher Creek Landfill, south of Cowley. Recycling is more difficult because pick-up is not available in most rural areas. Recycling depots are located at Cameron’s in the Town of Pincher Creek and at the Twin Butte Store.
There are several unique challenges that M.D. residents, Council and Administration confront, as presented in this article. Working together can make the difference. The information is by no means exhaustive. There are other issues you may encounter that we have overlooked and we encourage you to be vigilant in your duties to explore and examine those things that could cause your move to be less than you expect. The Municipal District of Pincher Creek No. 9 staff will be happy to answer any additional questions you may have.
Please contact us for more information at:
- Administration 403 627-3130
- Public Works 403 627-3130
- Agricultural and Environmental Services 403 627-3130
- E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development – www.agric.gov.ab.ca
- Alberta Environment Water Resources Administration Division http://www.environment.alberta.ca/2013.html
Please note the links to the left and the centre of the page.
Updated December 2016