County of Wetaskiwin accepts Range Road 71 as is for residential development

Development deiscussion heads to fall strategic planning session

An unusual case involving a public road allowance, several Bonterra Energy lease roads, and an application for residential development has split County of Wetaskiwin council on what should come first: policy or development.

During Wetaskiwin county council’s June 20 meeting councillors were faced with the task of deciding how to proceed with a proposed single residential development along the undeveloped road allowance Range Road 71.

Cole Schneider, whose family has a history of residing in the area, has set his sights of moving his home onto a section of land along the road allowance and, after facing setbacks due to the quality of the road being below county standards, was given the green light with council’s 4-3 decision.

Council split the vote in favour of accepting Range Road 71 as is, allowing Schneider to begin development, with the conditions his family develop a school bus-accessible turnaround to county standards, as well as remove the cattle guards and fencing put in place by Bonterra Energy — neither of the two cattle guards (one installed recently) appear to have been approved by the county.

“It’s a little bit unusual in the (way) that you have a public road that’s gated with cattle guards,” said David Blades, director of planning and economic development.

Reeve Kathy Rooyakkers and councillors Lyle Seely, Larry McKeever and Keith Johnson voted in favour of the motion. Councillors Pearl Hay, Terry Van de Kraats and Garry Dearing were opposed.

Council also voted unanimously to take the larger issue at play to its fall strategic planning session.

Van de Kraats and Dearing wanted to wait to make a decision on the Schneider case until the matter could be further discussed, as there are other similar situations across the county.

“I hear all that we’ve heard today, I don’t think we come to a decision today,” said Van de Kraats.

“I think I’ve got to agree with Terry. This is far more reaching,” said Dearing.

“I sympathize with you,” he added, directing his comment to Schneider and his father Lance Schneider.

However, Rooyakkers did not want to leave Schneider in limbo until fall, causing him to miss construction season.

She added Schneider does not own the first two quarter sections the road runs by, yet he was being expected to upgrade the road there as well.

Before settling on accepting Range Road 71 as is the county wanted Schneider to take the financial responsibility of bringing the 5 metre wide, below-standard road up to county standards.

“My thing is I don’t understand why we should be expected to pay for county infrastructure,” said Schneider.

Council debated proposing a cost share model between the County of Wetaskiwin and Schneider on a 75-25 per cent split.

However, Lance Schneider says even at 25 per cent it is still to high for a 25-year-old to accommodate.

“Now, we’re looking to build on this land and stay in your county and you’re making it very difficult,” said Lance Schneider.

Seely says the county needs to change its perspective on whose responsibility it is to develop new roads in the county; otherwise the county could lose potential development.

An issue summary report present during the council meeting states, “The county’s practice regarding new developments and possible road upgrades has been consistent. As part of the development agreement, it is incumbent upon the developer that he/she is to bear the full costs of all required road upgrades upon public road right-of-way. It should be noted, that quite often if a property is purchased without physical access, the value of the purchase often reflects the fact that no quality physical access was presented at the time of purchase.”

“I think we have to stop looking at people putting in a single residence the same way as someone putting in a multi-parcel development,” said Seely.