By Joni MacFarlane
Editor, Crowsnest Pass Promoter
A lengthy discussion among Crowsnest Pass council members on July 23 resulted in a decision to begin the process to annex 870-quarter sections of land in the Municipal District (MD) of Ranchland.
The portion of land extends approximately west from the Maycroft bridge southward to the Crowsnest Pass boundary said Chief Administrative Officer Myron Thompson.
As directed by Mayor Bruce Decoux at an earlier meeting, Thompson presented a discussion paper that outlined the process to date and options for consideration.
“This current council… has been working towards annexation and/or amalgamation processes… since early 2012,” said Thompson. “Our objective through these processes was to work collaboratively with Ranchland towards an amiable outcome. Through recent correspondence it has been indicated that the MD of Ranchland is not interested in working with Crowsnest Pass relative to this matter.”
Four options had been discussed with council, Thompson said, as follows:
- Annex southerly portion, about 870 quarter sections.
- Annex specific area of coal mining area, about 230 quarter sections.
- Amalgamate with MD in its entirety.
- Not proceed with amalgamation or annexation.
The fees associated with annexing land are $300 for the first quarter and $50 per remaining quarters. In the case of 870-quarter sections, this would total $43,750.
This fee is not needed until the application is approved, Thompson added, and can be waived or reduced by the province.
The process begins, he said, by submitting a formal Notice of Intent to the appropriate stakeholders such as MD, the province, school boards, hospitals and any other affected stakeholders.
In accordance with Section 216 of the Municipal Government Act, the letter must describe the physical land to be annexed, the reasons for annexation, and the methods of communication and consultation that will take place with landowners.
“Consultation is very important… We will also need to ensure that we are not taking on something that is not viable and will create hardships for our Municipality,” Thompson said.
He added that this Notice could be withdrawn, amended or left in abeyance indefinitely at any time during the process. The area in question may also be changed later on.
“Concerns were raised as to the position of the Municipality should annexation take place and the mine development did not proceed in a timely matter or at all,” read Thompson’s report. “It is known that the population in the larger segment of land in consideration is relatively insignificant as is the amount of infrastructure to maintain.”
Thompson told council that the municipality did not know if Riversdale Resources had finalized acquisition of the land at Grassy Mountain.
He also said he did not have information on the existing linear assessment value. In order to get that data, a written request must be sent to the province and MD Ranchland must give written authorization for it to be provided to Crowsnest Pass.
Linear assessment fees are paid to municipalities for land used by services such as railway lines, utility and tele-communications companies.
“In order for us to determine the viability, we really need to know what the revenues are in relation to linear assessment,” said Thompson. “So it’s kind of a chicken and egg thing.”
Councillor Larry Mitchell raised a concern that in some annexation cases from rural to urban, municipalities are charged for lost revenue from their tax base. He suggested this be considered.
“There is a range of processes. If it is a contested annexation, which it I would assume it would be, there is a mediation process and negotiations,” said Thompson. “All those matters… would have to be worked through.”
Mayor Decoux moved to defer the issue until more information could be provided.
Councillors Gail, Lonsbury, Saindon and Gallant opposed this motion.
Council voted to direct administration to proceed with a Notice of Intent.