WHEREAS rural municipalities have responsibility for the construction and maintenance of local road infrastructure; and
WHEREAS the Government of Alberta, through Alberta Environment and Parks, under the Public Lands Act, may undertake to sell Crown lands through public auction; and
WHEREAS the sale of such lands puts additional pressures on municipalities for the provision of infrastructure to service the lands, such as roads, with no financial benefit to the municipality; and
WHEREAS the County of Northern Lights has recently experienced a public auction of 9 parcels of land to which there is no developed road access;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties lobby the Government of Alberta to ensure that municipalities receive full compensation from the Government of Alberta, which would include proceeds from the sale of said public lands, in order to provide the required infrastructure to those said lands.
The County of Northern Lights received an email in February, 2015 indicating that Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD, now Alberta Environment and Parks) was auctioning lands within the County and asked if the County had any concerns to advise by February 20th (15 days later).
The County advised that we had great concern with the proposal. Of the nine parcels being sold, only two had road access and were agreeable to the County. Five of the parcels were located in an area where there had been an abundance of land clearing over the last few years, which had been causing the County considerable drainage problems downstream. During a meeting with ESRD earlier that January, the County Council advised ESRD that when lands are sold there is an expectation by the purchasers that roads will be constructed to access the lands, however the County is not in a financial position to construct roads to agricultural properties. Even if sold as a block, the owners could sell the quarters individually later, as often happens. Then the new landowners expect roads to be constructed. The sale of these lands is of no benefit to the County as agricultural taxes are minimal and do not pay the cost of maintenance.
The sale of such Crown lands adds to the County’s overall infrastructure deficit.
These concerns, as well as the drainage issue were discussed with ESRD staff in January, and when the request was received in February, and County voiced its concerns, we were advised that the lands had been applied on many years ago, and referrals to agencies and First Nation consultation were made based on the process and policies in place at the time. As a result of the input received, the lands were identified for sale, and all merchantable timber was harvested in preparation for sale. They advised they were not prepared to withhold the sale of these properties, but that they would add a statement to the auction notice stating “developed access to these parcels is not guaranteed. It is the successful bidder’s responsibility to ensure that access to the land is available and suitable. Please contact County of Northern Lights prior to auction.”
In reply the County advised AESRD that this one sale alone had the potential to cause an additional 3 miles of road to be constructed sometime in the future. Taxes the County would receive would be approximately $75.00 per year per quarter, yet we would be expected to invest approximately $750,000 in infrastructure for roads alone. It was suggested the parcels be consolidated prior to sale in an attempt to resolve the road issue. It was also suggested that in future the Government of Alberta should be providing assistance to municipalities for the required infrastructure to service newly opened parcels. As the Government of Alberta has cut off essentially all grant programs for such services, municipalities should not be stuck with the additional service requirements.
The applicable legislation is as follows:
PUBLIC LANDS ADMINISTRATION REGULATION
Sale of public land
6(1) In this section, “sell” means to transfer, as defined in the Land Titles Act, for valuable consideration, and includes a notification issued under section 30 of the Act or an instrument of transfer prescribed under the Land Titles Act.
(2) The Minister may, subject to the Act and regulations, sell public land by public auction, private sale or tender, on the terms and conditions the Minister considers appropriate and at a price not less than the fair value of the land.
(3) In determining the price at which the land will be sold, the Minister may take into consideration the purposes for which the land will be used.
PUBLIC LANDS ACT
Sale of land
18 The Minister may, if in the Minister’s opinion doing so will not conflict or be inconsistent with any applicable ALSA regional plan,
(a) within 2 years after a sale by public auction that did not find a purchaser, sell the land by private sale at a price not less
than the upset price,
(b) sell the land contained in a homestead lease to the lessee on any terms and conditions that the Minister may prescribe if the lessee, in the opinion of the Minister, has faithfully and
to the best of the lessee’s ability endeavoured to perform the lessee’s obligations under the homestead lease but from some unpreventable cause or mental or physical incapacity
or through some technicality has failed in doing so and yet has an equitable claim entitling the lessee to favourable consideration,
(c) reserve public land for any reason and for any period and permit the use of that land for any period and subject to any terms and conditions that the Minister prescribes by the
Crown in right of Canada, by any department of the Government or by any person, without executing a disposition for it, and
(d) promote good farm cultural practices and require proper range management efforts and the adoption of farming and grazing practices by disposition holders for conservation purposes.
The AAMDC has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
Environment and Parks: Municipalities need resources to make Alberta a better place to live and work. That is why the Government of Alberta increased capital spending by 15 percent in Budget 2015 to better support local water and waste water projects, improve transit, and improve municipal roads.
Alberta Environment and Parks will continue to work with municipalities to make informed decisions when it comes to the sale of public land.
The Government of Alberta response makes no reference to the issue of costs incurred by municipalities to service previous Crown land that is purchased through public auction and developed. As such, this resolution is assigned a status of Intent Not Met, and the AAMDC will continue to advocate on this issue.