An unusual situation involving an application to close and sell an undeveloped road allowance had County of Wetaskiwin councilors several times use the term “precedent setting” during a public hearing Jan.9.
The public hearing was held during the Planning and Development council meeting for an application from Gian & Tress Gibson to close and sell a portion of the undeveloped road allowance adjacent to the west boundary of their property described as SW 36-46-23-W4M located on the east side of Coal Lake. Reeve Terry Van de Kraats opened the public hearing.
It was stated at a previous meeting a structure on the Gibson’s property encroaches on the undeveloped road allowance.
Director of Planning and Development David Blades stated in his presentation to council, “This issue had previously been presented to Council on July 7, 2015, at which time a resolution was passed to deny the request but offer Mr. & Mrs. Gibson the opportunity to close and lease the road allowance as an option.
“At the November 8, 2019 Council for Planning and Economic Development meeting, Council approved the request made by Gian & Tress Gibson, rescinded Resolution #CG20150707.1016, and instructed Administration proceed with the process for road closure in accordance with County of Wetaskiwin Policy 12.0.4 Road Allowance Lease and relevant legislation.”
Blades noted the application had been publically advertised and input sought from referral agencies. One response received was from an adjacent landowner who holds a government lease; Blades stated it doesn’t appear the Gibson’s application would affect this neighbour’s lease.
A second response was received from a landowner who stated they were concerned about the application because an encroaching building was already located on the road allowance, which is technically provincial government property.
At this point, Assistant CAO Jeff Chipley stated an undeveloped road allowance is not classed as recreational property and the one in question “goes nowhere.”
Councilor Lyle Seely stated he was concerned that approving this request would set a precedent that a property owner could encroach on an undeveloped road allowance, then later apply to purchase it. Seely added that it doesn’t appear that this particular road allowance will ever be used for a road, otherwise the property owners would be required to move their building off the road allowance.
Councilor Bill Krahn agreed. “I feel the same way, Lyle,” said Krahn.
Van de Kraats suggested selling some of the road allowance to the Gibsons, and keeping some of it public. The reeve said he was also concerned about precedent, and had heard some feedback from the public about this issue.
Councilor Josh Bishop balked, saying he feels the sale of the road allowance would be precedent setting. Bishop said he could support up to eight feet of the road allowance sold to the Gibsons but not the entire lease.
Chipley stated an option the councilors have was to approve first reading of the bylaw, then sending the bylaw to the Transportation Ministry for approval, then reducing the amount of road allowance up for sale.
During the public hearing one of the applicants, Tress Gibson, spoke. She stated the request should be looked at as an individual case which doesn’t necessarily affect anyone else.
After the public hearing was closed, councilors approved, by a 6 to 1 margin, First reading. The bylaw will be sent to the Ministry of Transportation for approval and, if approved, it will return to a future county meeting.