Attention Red Deer County landowners

Dear Editor,
Last spring when I received our land taxes, I noticed what I thought was a huge mistake.
Our taxes on one of our properties had gone up 923 per cent.
I went into their office to point out this mistake to the assessor.  She informed me this land is now considered residential.
That can’t be, no one has ever lived on this land, it’s two kilometres off the road.There are no services and it is land-locked by other properties.
Well, she said, we found it appears to be a campground.
Now, this so-called campground has been used and set up by my son.  It consists of a fire pit, two homemade picnic tables and an old porta-potty that was given to him.  Oh yes, and a 35 year old child’s swing set.
He and his cousin and their families used it once last year, some years it gets used twice.  I believe it is irrelevant as to how often it is used if it belongs to our family and they are using it.
No profit is being made from this property.  It is less than a quarter of an acre.
So, I asked the assessor to come look at the property.  She met me at the road, we then drove through our crop land, through a gate that is always closed due to cattle, then across this quarter, onto the second quarter, back to another crop field at which point, there is no longer a visible trail.  I then took her east over open pasture and then when we got to within 50 feet of the so-called campground I asked, can you see anything? … to which she replied, no!
I then walked her over a small embankment and she had a look around and she took some photos.
I thought this would be the end of the problem. I asked her how anyone would ever  find such a spot.  Well, apparently the Red Deer County hired a company out of Sherwood Park to look for such things.
A satellite image showed some anomaly.  The company then trespassed over two kilometres through crop land, two closed gates and they took ground photos for the County.
I wonder how much this cost the taxpayer to hire a company to do this?  They were trespassing too boot!
After a week or so, I went back to see if anything had been resolved.  Out of the goodness of their [County] hearts, they decided to lower our taxes to just over 500 per cent increase.
I’m still not happy so in speaking with the County reeve, Jim Wood, he agreed it was an unfair tax but said it is a provincial law, not a county law but would check into it for me.
Apparently common sense is not of abundance in our county or any government so we are still stuck with a 500 per cent increase.
In checking further into this matter I found other people like us were getting stuck with this unfair tax.
Other jurisdictions/counties have approached this law differently.  Common sense tells you this law was put into place for stopping illegal campgrounds which I agree with.
Some counties implemented this law and then took it off because there was a lot of flak from farmers who just needed a place to go and relax.
Other counties used common sense and never enforced the law at all.  I think these counties have more farmers and ex-farmers on council and they apply common sense to such matters.
If you are getting this tax, complain!  If you have some sort of private campground but are not getting charged, complain about the law before it affects you, but don’t sign your complaint.
And remember, the media works best. A letter on some assessor’s desk or in a file means nothing.
Just a stroke of a pen, our notice dropped from 923 per cent to 500 per cent.Let’s get this crazy law reduced to zero per cent.  This is a higher increase than on our home quarter and it even has a road that gets maintained!
To top off all this stupidity, this land would be eligible for the Alus program.  That is where the government pays you to be good stewards of the land and leave something for wildlife.
There is approximately 40 acres of this quarter over the river banks and it has never been fenced.  Our uncle owned this land before us.  He paid the taxes on this land, as we have and he didn’t mind, just happy to enjoy it.
Now we are paying a lot because it is not classified as farmland and they don’t tax you on the 40 acres you are not using but for the whole property.
Only government could pay you not to use it and then another arm of government tax you because you’re not using it. Yikes!
If you don’t like something and do nothing, you are part of the problem, not part of the solution.  What tax will they think of next.
If your municipality does not enforce this law, remember it is easier to keep it out than it is to get it revoked!
Angry taxpayer
Brian Mose
Elnora, Ab.

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