County of Wetaskiwin assumes control of weed-problem property

Council voted ‘reclamation’ of Von Arx’ property at June 6 meeting

Certain parcels of land said to be a serious, ongoing weed threat belonging to John von Arx are now under the stewardship of the County of Wetaskiwin after a public hearing June 6.

The Ag Service Board weed enforcement public hearing was held during the regular meeting of council and was called to order by Reeve Terry Van de Kraats.

Agricultural Services director Steve Majek spoke first, describing the issues with John von Arx properties dating back as far as 2002. “There’s a long history…it’s several pages long.”

His report stated, “Since 2002 Administration has been encouraging Mr. von Arx to control the noxious weeds on various properties including the SE 26-47-25-W4, two parcels on the SW 27-47-25-W4, SE 27-47-25-W4, NE 27-47-25 W4, SE 28-47-25 W4, SE 33-47-25-W4 and the SW 34-47-25 W4,” stated Majek in his report to council.

“Over the years the von Arx’s have received numerous weed notices for the noxious weeds on the properties.” Majek included in his report over a dozen interactions with the von Arx family dating back to 2010, including this report:

“In 2016 the Agricultural Service Board resolved that a recommendation be made to County of Wetaskiwin Council in writing that the control of the land be taken from the owner and occupant and that an order of reclamation of properties, which have not addressed the weeds, as per Section 12 of the Agricultural Service Board Act, be issued on June 1, 2016 by the Council to the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry. It was also recommended to County of Wetaskiwin Council that a Bylaw for the purpose of declaring that possession and control of Mr. von Arx’s properties is vested in Municipal Council, registered with land titles and that the properties be leased through the County of Wetaskiwin tendering process.”

Majek’s report continued, “At the May 17, 2019 Council for Planning and Economic Development Meeting, Council resolved that a hearing be held regarding the noxious weeds on the properties at the County of Wetaskiwin Administration office on Tuesday, June 6, 2019 at 9:30 a.m. in accordance with the Section 10 of the Agricultural Service Board Act. On May 17th, 2019 Mr. von Arx was hand delivered the Notice of Hearings letters.”

Majek said negotiations with John von Arx saw “limited to no success” on cleaning up noxious weeds such as common tansy from the family’s farmland.

Hence, the ASB recommended a “reclamation process” where the County of Wetaskiwin would take over management of the property and eliminate the weeds. The reclamation process requires a bylaw passed by council after a hearing, and the reclamation goes onto the land title for three years.

Councilor Kathy Rooyakkers clarified that this reclamation recommendation was coming from the ASB, including a representative of the provincial government who sat in on the last ASB meeting.

John von Arx spoke at the hearing. He said some spraying done by the county on his property didn’t kill all the weeds. He said he had a third party lined up to spray, but should have asked for Allied or Escort herbicide, as Round-up didn’t do much for the common tansy problem.

He also told councilors over the past few days he’d made agreements with other farmers to get rid of the weeds on his land.

Rooyakkers asked if the county takes over John von Arx’ land and rents it, who gets the revenue?

Majek answered that the county keeps what’s needed for its expenses, any revenue above that goes to John von Arx. He also stated reclamation is a three-year process, and other municipalities such as Rockyview and Grande Prairie have done this.

Councilor Josh Bishop stated the years of seed build up on the property in question and inaction almost demand reclamation. “We don’t want to be back at square one,” said Bishop.

Van de Kraats closed the public hearing. A motion was made to follow the ASB recommendation and “That the lands be taken under reclamation under Section 12 of the Agricultural Service Board Act and that a Bylaw for the purpose of declaring that possession and control of the lands be approved as present.” The bylaw unanimously passed all three readings.

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