Land use conflict rolls on

As The Pipestone Flyer’s rural readers know, good fences tend to make good neighbours. As readers also likely know...

As The Pipestone Flyer’s rural readers know, good fences tend to make good neighbours. As readers also likely know, separating your property from your neighbour’s isn’t always as easy as it sounds.

In this last week’s edition of the paper a story was printed regarding a dirt bike course on County of Wetaskiwin ratepayers’ Andrew and Erika Branco land that, upon investigation, was revealed to be unpermitted. In short, that means the proper approvals were not granted for the dirt bike track to exist. The Brancos subsequently requested a rezoning in order for the dirt bike track to become permitted, but the request was turned down by council.

During the meeting the Brancos stated they didn’t hold a developer’s meeting to inform neighbours, prior to the dirt bike course’s construction, to let neighbours know what to expect. This is one of the biggest mistakes developers make, regardless of whether they’re local ratepayers building something on their land or a major construction company coming into the county from the city. Not surprisingly, a number of the Branco’s neighbours showed up at the re-zoning meeting to oppose the development. That should have been no surprise to anyone.

Zoning laws exist for a reason. The reason is, in the past, a lack of clear zoning and land use rules created chaos across North America as things like lumber mills, concrete plants, feedlots and gun ranges were built on a whim by developers and neighbours paid the price. Obviously, farmers who have livestock and county residents who enjoy sleeping at night didn’t want to hear a sawmill running 24 hours day.

Further, County of Wetaskiwin can’t have two sets of development bylaws on the books: set 1, which applies to 99 per cent of ratepayers and set 2, that allows a small group of people to do as they wish.

In all fairness, off-road motor sports are hugely popular, and the number of dirt bikes and ATVs out in the county must surely be at an all-time high. A properly zoned and permitted dirt bike track would be a boon to the community, drawing visitors to the area and boosting the local tourism industry.

As noted during the Branco’s re-zoning hearing, their dirt bike track was boosted by admission fees and competitors from out of the community were welcome to attend.

Also during the Branco’s hearing, an impression was given that the county was forcing the family to abandon their personal motorcycles or ATVs on their property. That was not the case. County ratepayers have the option to enjoy quads, dirt bikes and side-by-sides on their property, along with tricycles, pogo sticks and roller-skates.

But when a serious attraction pops up that charges admission for an audience to watch competitors who could be from out of the community, that’s not a family get-together anymore and the Brancos should not have been surprised that their neighbors were unhappy with the development. That’s precisely the reason zoning and land use bylaws were created in the first place.

A proper development application includes analysis of how the development will impact the community, both positively and negatively.

As well, the development process gives the community a chance to comment on something that will affect their lives, farms, businesses and homes.

Good advice for any developer, regardless of footprint or budget, is to be as open as possible and show your neighbours the same respect and consideration that you would like to see from them.

Revenue Canada scam

“Rev Canada phone scam is now calling Millet area numbers. Please warn seniors not to fall for this!!!!”

This warning was posted on the Millet Crime Watch Facebook page last week. It’s a good idea to once again offer a warning to our readers about this fraud.

The Revenue Canada scam has been plaguing Alberta for months, and it’s no accident or mistake. This is an organized group of criminals who are intentionally targeting the more trusting members of our community in an attempt to harm them.

In essence, the scam involves a phone call out of the blue from an unknown person claiming to represent the federal government, specifically Revenue Canada. The caller says “You owe a huge tax bill, and you have to pay it immediately or we’re sending the RCMP over to arrest you.” The caller then offers bizarre ways in which the victim can pay the bill, including pre-paid cards through the mail.

No one at Revenue Canada will ever phone a Canadian citizen about their tax bill. All correspondence of that nature is conducted through the mail. Also, police don’t have time to go arresting everyone in Canada who owes a delinquent tax bill or half the country would be in jail.

Who could possibly fall for such a scam? Well, provincial media outlets were reporting last week a Calgary woman had over $20,000 stolen from her after the scammers ordered her to start sending them thousands of dollars worth of Apple iTunes cards. As the Revenue Canada scammers are likely based in a foreign country where they’re immune to arrest, the best strategy for Pipestone Flyer readers who get one of these calls is to simply hang up the phone immediately.