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WHEREAS the Province of Alberta has established the Municipal Government Act to determine the purposes, powers and capacity of municipalities in Alberta; and
WHEREAS the Municipal Government Act creates an adversarial process in the areas of annexations and Section 690 appeals; and
WHEREAS the Municipal Government Act does not impose penalties for frivolous or vexatious applications for annexation or Section 690 appeals;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the AAMDC urge the Province of Alberta to change the following sections of the Municipal Government Act (Revised Statues of Alberta 2000, Chapter M-26):
(1) Add a subsection (3) to Section 117 (Direct negotiations on Annexation), which would read: “If the application for annexation is deemed to be frivolous and/or vexatious by the Municipal Government Board, no further action shall be taken to proceed with the application under Sections 118 to 121 of the Municipal Government Act”.
(2) Change the wording of Section 122(2) (Notice of Hearing and Costs) to read: “The Municipal Government Board shall (a change from may) determine the costs of and incidental to a hearing and decide by whom and to whom the costs are to be paid. This process is mandatory in those applications under Section 117(3) that are determined to be frivolous and/or vexatious”.
(3) Add a Subsection (a) to Section 690 (4) (Intermunicipal Disputes), which would read: “If a notice of appeal is deemed to be frivolous and/or vexatious by the Municipal Government Board, no further action shall be taken to proceed with the appeal under Sections 690 and 691 of the Municipal Government Act”.
(4) Add a Subsection (3) to Section 691 (Board Hearing) which would read:
“The Municipal Government Board shall determine the costs of and incidental to an appeal application, to be assessed to the Appellant that are determined to be frivolous and/or vexatious.”
Brazeau County is currently dealing with the Municipal Government Board for an annexation application filed on October 30, 2007 by its urban neighbor (Town of Drayton Valley) for 69 quarter sections of rural land. This application includes approximately 1000 people and $1.5 million in tax dollars of Brazeau County residents and revenues. This loss of residents and revenues is ongoing forever and seriously affects the County’s revenue streams. The current boundaries of the Town of Drayton Valley approximate 20 quarters of land for a population of 7000. If the proposed annexation were allowed, it would give the Town boundaries a total of 89 quarters. As a comparison, the City of Red Deer has approximately 109 quarter sections of land for a population of approximately 86,000 people. A previous annexation application by the Town of Drayton Valley resulted in a ten year annexation agreement signed in January, 2002 for a land transfer of 7.3 quarters. Other counties have had similar annexation applications which are meant to be negotiating tactics for land rather than legitimate applications based upon need. Simultaneous to the annexation application, the Town of Drayton Valley has filed five Section 690 appeals to the Municipal Government Board against County planning bylaws in the applied for annexation area during the period January 1 to September 19, 2008. it is estimated that another 3 appeals will be filed, on upcoming bylaws, by the Town by December 31, 2008. The only apparent rationale for this number of Section 690 appeals to the Municipal Government Board would be that Brazeau County landowners are not allowed to plan for their own land developments until (or if) the annexation application by the Town were granted by the Municipal Government Board.
The AAMDC has no current resolutions directly related to this issue.
The provisions within the Municipal Government Act promote intermunicipal co operation within the annexation process and provide measures to be undertaken by municipalities when there is a disagreement between parties.
The Municipal Government Board is the provincial appeal body which hears disputes concerning annexations and intermunicipal issues that are not resolved through mediation.
Section 117 of the Municipal Government Act outlines the negotiation process for annexation applications and states that the municipal authorities must discuss and negotiate the annexation proposal in good faith. This section further states that if there are matters on which no agreement has been reached, the municipal authorities must attempt mediation to resolve those matters.
With respect to intermunicipal land disputes, municipalities are required to use mediation to address these disputes. Section 690 of the Municipal Government Act stipulates that the municipalities involved must attempt mediation before the
Municipal Government Board can hear the matter. In many cases, the appealing municipality will register its appeal with the board in order to preserve its right to appeal before commencing with mediation.
The Planning and Dispute Resolution Team with Alberta Municipal Affairs offers an innovative program that provides mediation and dispute resolution support to municipalities which require assistance during these types of disputes. Financial assistance may be available to help offset the cost of mediation.
These concerns will be added to the ministry’s database of matters that may be considered during the next general review of the Municipal Government Act.
Municipal Government Board:
The changes proposed by the AAMDC would likely not help to reduce the adversarial environment regarding annexations and intermunicipal disputes. Current legislation supports a mediated resolution by the parties leading to reduced time and costs in completing the process.
Hearings would be required to determine if matters were frivolous and/or vexatious, as parties have a right to be heard on their rights to appeal. Hearings to determine if annexations or disputes are frivolous and/or vexatious would add costs to parties and cause delays in hearing and deciding the merits of annexations and intermunicipal disputes.
The current provisions of the Municipal Government Act provide for the application and awarding of costs to a party should it be necessary. The Municipal Government Board has awarded costs in the past.
The AAMDC Standing Issues Committee on Governance, Infrastructure and Economy included this in the recommendations for changes to Part 17 of the Municipal Government Act. This recommendation was submitted to Municipal Affairs with the rest of the paper for them to consider during a review of the MGA.