After a hotly debated and sometimes testy discussion, County of Wetaskiwin council has approved an offer to solve a private driveway sitting on public land problem.
The issue of Gordon and Marjorie Loov’s driveway sitting on county property was discussed at the Sept. 13 Planning and Economic Development meeting. County staff were to bring back options for the Loovs to purchase the property from the County of Wetaskiwin, which at a previous meeting was considered the best solution.
The issue was presented by development officer Jarvis Grant and Director of Planning and Development David Blades. The driveway is located at NW 32-45-25-W4M, P.7722461 B.2 L.2.
Grant stated staff had three options for council to consider: the first involved the Loov family being responsible for all costs in the purchase, with a total of roughly $8,100.
The second option involved no county or subdivision costs on the project, so the Loov family would be responsible only for their own costs such as legal fees and the value of the land, stated as $1,200 in all of the options. This option cost roughly $4,400.
The third option was similar, but waived only subdivision costs, and the county costs would be applied. This total was roughly $6,600.
Grant noted the costs were approximate.
The Loovs were present for the discussion. Marj suggested the county look at “adverse possession,” a legal term used to describe, essentially, a squatting situation where someone has been on someone else’s property for over 10 years. Essentially, the property in question is then assumed to belong to the squatter.
Marj noted the Loovs have had the driveway on the public land for close to 34 years and no one noticed until recently.
Looking at the options, Marj said option 2 looked best, but questioned the $1,200 land value. She asked if the land should be valued at prices from 34 years ago, when the Loovs purchased the property. Marj also questioned public notification charges, stating she felt the Loovs should not have to pay that.
Councilor Dale Woitt asked if anyone has ever asked for access to nearby ER land. Marj answered, “No.”
Woitt said he didn’t see any reason why the encroaching driveway was a problem. “I see this as a non-issue,” said Woitt.
Grant responded that the Municipal Government Act forbids things like driveways encroaching on public land.
Woitt responded then that he felt that the county should take some responsibility for purchase costs.
Grant noted that some costs are unavoidable, as surveyors must be involved when a land sale occurs. Grant stated that the idea of a three year lease was also mentioned.
Councilor Lyle Seely said he preferred to see a permanent solution. “We don’t want to go down the road of leasing,” said Seely. He also mentioned accepting the “adverse possession” solution would set a precedent. Seely noted that options 2 and 3 included the county paying some of the costs.
Councilor Terry Van de Kraats said he agreed with Seely, stated the county is eating some costs and said option 2 looked fair.
The idea of turning the driveway into an unmaintained county road was mentioned; however, Grant noted it would have to be re-zoned which involves costs. Blades mentioned it would also become a public access, open to, for example, hunters.
Councilor Woitt also asked why this issue was a public one, as nobody but the Loovs use the property in question. “And why would the public have to know about this?” Woitt asked. Grant responded that decisions such as rezoning of public property require a public hearing.
Blades noted that the MGA requires the county to handle situations like this in certain ways; for example, the land must be sold at fair market value.
Gordon said option 2 looks like the best one, but stated he was concerned the rough price of $4,400 would balloon up. Grant responded the property value figure is accurate, and it’s up to council to decide what costs to charge the Loovs.
Councilors approved option 2 by a 6 to 2 vote.