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WHEREAS Canadas major railways have abandoned or sold non-profitable rail lines over the past few years;AND WHEREAS smaller railway companies are not maintaining their rights of way to the same extent, in particular with respect to grass burning and weed control;AND WHEREAS lack of maintenance is felt to be a major cause of grass and forest fires;AND WHEREAS abandonment and/or sale of rail rights-of-way causes concern to municipalities with respect to land use and reclamation;AND WHEREAS abandonment and/or sale of rail rights of way cause concerns for farmers along these rights of way;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties call upon the federal and provincial ministers responsible for railway transportation to:a) i) to put in place appropriate legislation to ensure that appropriate maintenance standards on railway rights of way exist and are enforced or;ii) if legislation is in place, to enforce it.b) Not allow abandonment of any rail right of way without full reclamation to the satisfaction of the respective province and municipality.c) Not allow sale after abandonment without right of acquisition being as follows:i) municipality;ii) property owner;iii) other public interest body; oriv) others.d) Not allow any other use unless approved under the local jurisdictions Land Use Bylaws.
The sale and abandonment of rail lines in the recent past has caused various concerns for municipalities.Sales to smaller operations have seen a lessening of maintenance such as grass and weed control. This has caused a greater than normal number of fires caused by sparks from the trains.Abandonment causes other potential problems.Reclamation should be done to restore old road grades, ditches and address the impact on the soil of decades of creosote use.New uses of the lands can have detrimental effects on adjacent property owners. Municipalities should have a say in the new uses and reclamation process.FOOTNOTE: As this draft is being written, a Saskatchewan municipal bylaw has been upheld by their Court of Appeal regarding certain municipal conditions. The Municipal District of Fairview has recently passed a similar bylaw in Alberta.
Resolution 9-99S, endorsed at the spring 1999 convention, calls for adjacent property owners to be granted first right of refusal when abandoned rail line properties are offered for sale.This resolution was subsequently endorsed by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, after being amended to state that federal, provincial and municipal governments should have first right of refusal, followed by the adjacent property owner (this order of precedence also reflected the previous position of the AAMDC).Although no longer formally in effect, resolution 12-92F, endorsed at the fall 1992 convention, called for full reclamation of rail line property prior to abandonment. The AAMDC has continued to take this position forward to both the provincial and federal government as events warrant, most recently during the review of the Alberta Railway Act in 1988.