Living in Foothills County - What You Need to Know
Life in Foothills County can be very different from life in the city. Rural municipalities typically do not provide the same level of service that urban municipalities provide. We want to provide you with the following information to help you make an educated and informed decision about living rurally.
The fact that you can drive to your property does not necessarily guarantee that you, your guests and emergency service vehicles can achieve that same level of access at all times. Some issues to consider:
- Emergency response times (RCMP, Peace Officers, fire suppression, medical care, etc.) cannot be guaranteed. Your property will have both a legal land location and a rural address. Please post your rural address in a highly visible place on the access road to your property and by your phone. 911 operators need your rural address to ensure service providers can reach you quickly.
- Access to your property. There can be issues with the legal aspects of access, especially if you gain access across property belonging to others. It is wise to obtain legal advice and understand the easements that may be necessary when these types of questions arise, and remember that easements are not legal access for purpose of subdivision and development approval.
- Road maintenance. You can experience problems with the maintenance and cost of maintenance of your road. Foothills County maintains over 2,000 kilometers of roads, but there are also some county roads that are not maintained by the county - no grading or snow plowing. Make sure you know what type of maintenance to expect and who will provide that maintenance.
- Snowplowing - always plow in to the parce as snow piles impede visibility of roads and increase volume of water during melting conditions.
- Extreme weather conditions can destroy roads.
- When extreme weather happens, roads can become difficult to travel or even impassable. You may need a four wheel drive vehicle to travel during these times.
- Some roads are considered heavy haul routes. Please be aware of large transport vehicles that regularly travel many of our roads.
- Foothills County repairs and maintains public roads. Private roads and driveways are the responsibility of the landowners who use those roads. It is up to you to find out if you will be responsible for your road before purchasing a property.
- Residents served by private roads and/or bridges may be responsible for the cost of repairs and/or reconstruction after floods.
- Unpaved roads generate dust. Dust is part of life for most rural residents. If your residence is adjacent to a gravel road, you may apply to the dust control spot treatment program with Foothills County.
- School buses. Rural children are usually bussed to schools. School buses pick up and deliver to the property line - not to your doorstep, so please be aware of walking distanace for your children and of children standing by farm gates and drive ways waiting for buses. You must stop in either direction when school bus lights are flashing. Check with your school division to find out what bus route services your property.
- Mail delivery is not available to all areas of the municipality. Check with Canada Post to explain the system for your area.
- Newspaper delivery is not always available to rural areas. Check with the newspaper of your choice before assuming you can get delivery.
- Standard parcel and overnight package delivery can take longer for those who live in rural areas. Confirm with the service providers what type of delivery is available.
Water, sewer, electric, telephone, garbage collection and other services may be unavailable or may not operate at urban standards. Repairs can often take much longer than in urban areas. Keep in mind that:
- Telephone communications can be a problem, especially in the mountainous areas of the County. Cellular phones will not work in all areas.
- Foothills County may have pre-approved a specific septic system for your property.
- When sewer service is available to your property, it can be costly to hook into the system. When you have on-site sewage disposal, there is also a cost of maintaining that system.
- When sewer service is not available, you will need to use an approved septic system or other treatment process. The type of soil you have available for a leach field will be very important in determining the cost and function of your system. Check the Alberta Private Sewage Systems Standards of Practice for guidelines.
- If you have access to a supply of domestic water, you may find that your monthly cost of service can be more expensive than municipal systems.
- In most cases you will not have access to a supply of domestic water and will have to locate an alternative supply. Water wells are the most common method, for which there will be a cost associated for drilling and pumping. The quality and quantity of well water can vary considerably from location to location and from season to season. Contact Alberta Environment to investigate this issue.
- Not all wells can be used for irrigation of landscaping and/or watering livestock. Licenses from Alberta Environment may be required. If you have needs other than for your household, make certain that you have the proper approvals before you invest. It is advised that you look into this issue very carefully, through Alberta Environment.
- Electric service is generally available to most areas within Foothills County, but it is important to determine the proximity of electrical power. It is expensive to extend power lines to remote areas.
- It may be necessary to cross property owned by others in order to extend electric 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 be built to your property.
- Electric power may not be available in all configurations. If you have special power requirements, it is important to know what level of service can be provided to your property.
- Power outages will occur. A loss of electric power can interrupt your supply of water from a well. You may also lose food in freezers or refrigerators and power outages can cause problems with computers as well. Use a surge protector to protect what you have plugged in.
- Be prepared for emergencies. Have an emergency plan that will allow you to survive for up to a week. Check our Emergency Preparedness for more information.
- Household waste removal is more expensive in a rural area than in a city. The closest landfill or transfer station may be a distance from your home. It is illegal to create your own trash dump, even on your own land. Find out the cost for trash removal when you make the decision to move into the country. In some cases, your only option may be to haul your garbage and recyclables to the landfill and transfer station yourself.
- It is the responsibility of pipeline owners to ensure existing lines crossing or on municipal rights-of-way is signed to warn of their presence. The County will not assume any liability or responsibility for damages.
- BEFORE you dig, build, tear down, demolish or otherwise disturb existing improvements or ground, call Alberta 1 Call (1-800-242-3447) to locate all utilities and in the case of demolition or relocation, make certain all utilities have been disconnected. Even burning debris on the ground surface can result in serious utility line damage, such as melting an undetected underground gas line.
There are many issues that can and will affect your property. Read the title document carefully before making purchase. Being educated about these issues will help you avoid difficulties. Remember:
- Different parcels of land may have different zoning. Check the Land Use Map at www.mdfoothills.com to confirm what the zoning is and what the permitted uses within that zone are.
- Easements may require you to allow construction and maintenance of roads, power lines, water lines, sewer lines, etc. across your land.
- Most property owners do not own the gas and mineral rights under their property. Owners of gas and mineral rights have the ability to change the surface characteristics in order to extract their gas and minerals. It is very important to know what may be located under the land and who owns them. Much of the rural land in Foothills County can be used for gas extraction and facilities. Be aware that adjacent gas extraction and facilities uses can expand and cause negative impacts on property and quality of life.
- Fences that separate properties are often misaligned with the property lines. You can confirm the location of your property lines through survey of the land.
- Many subdivisions 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.
- The surrounding properties will probably not remain as they are indefinitely. You can check with the Foothills County Planning Department to find out how the properties are designated and to see what future developments may be in the planning stages. The view from your property may change.
When the elements of nature are released, it can affect you in unexpected ways. Some thoughts to consider:
- The physical characteristics of your property can be positive and negative. Trees are a wonderful environmental amenity, but can also involve your home in a forest fire. If you start a forest fire, you are responsible for paying for the cost of extinguishing that fire. Is your home FireSmart? Protect your home from wildfire. Grass fires start and spread fast. For more information: ProtectYourHomeFromWildfire.pdf
- 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.
- The topography of the land can tell you where the water will go in the case of heavy precipitation. Take this into consideration when decide where to build. Foothills County has aerial photos available for purchase.
- Nature provides you with some wonderful neighbors. Most are positive additions to the environment. However, unexpected wildlife on roads can cause traffic accidents. Rural development encroaches on the traditional habitat of coyotes, cougars, bears and other animals that can be dangerous and you need to know how to deal with them. In general, it is best to enjoy wildlife from a distance and know that if you do not handle your pets and trash properly, it could cause problems for you and the wildlife.
- If you have problems with wildlife, check first with the Agricultural Services Board before taking any action.
Owning rural land comes with the responsibility of knowing and understanding what happens in the country. Some things to consider:
- Farmers often work around the clock, especially during planting and harvest time. Hay is often swathed or baled at night. It is possible that adjoining agricultural uses could disturb your peace and quiet.
- Land preparation and other operations can cause dust, especially during windy and dry weather.
- Chemicals (mainly fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides) are sprayed on growing crops. These sprays can drift in the slightest of breezes. You may be sensitive to these substances.
- Agriculture is an important business in Foothills County. Alberta has "Right to Farm" legislation that protects farmers and ranchers from nuisance and liability lawsuits. It enables them to continue producing.
- Share the road with farm vehicles and equipment. Note that operators of farm machinery have reduced visibility and wear noise protection.
- Before buying, find out if it has noxious weeds that may be expensive to control and you may be required to control. Some plants are poisonous to horses and other livestock. The Agricultural Services Board will be able to provide you with information on how to deal with noxious weeds.
- Animals and their manure can cause objectionable odors. Animals will also make noise in the night.
- Animals can be dangerous and can attack. It is not safe to enter pens where animals are kept.
- Dogs harassing livestock are detrimental to the livestock's health. You are responsible to keep your animals/pets on your property or under your direct control. Provincial legislation allows a farmer/rancher to shoot dogs that are harassing or "worrying" livestock.
- Livestock will eat loose garbage which can harm them. Keep your garbage enclosed and on your own property.
- Dugouts are dangerous! Every year children drown in dugouts.
Foothills County is a great place to live. This list does not cover everything, but the intent is to create awareness about issues when living rurally. It is important to be aware of these different issues and situations that you may find yourself facing when you live rurally.