Forestburg community growth incentive working

Wanda School, west of Forestburg, Alta. ECA Review/T.Huxley
Written by Terri Huxley

As of the last Forestburg council meeting on Thurs. July 2, the village has seen three new buyers thanks to the community growth incentive policy.

This policy was created earlier in the year after the idea was spurred by Dep. Mayor Bob Coutts to have an incentive on utility bills and such to give more people a reason to live in Forestburg.

A request has been received from the owners of 5413 – 47 Avenue W for a $500 utility credit with regards to the Community Growth Incentive Policy.

The property owner indicates in his/her application that they have invited a family of two to relocate and purchase a home located at 4807 – 49 Street in Forestburg. 

Council approved the residential growth incentive of $500 and applied the sum to their utility account.

Special council meeting/hearing

Council held a special meeting following a public hearing about the land use bylaw changes on Thurs. June 25.

The panel of four councillors unanimously agreed to allow for Plan 9920067; Block 7; Lot 3 (4310 – 47 Street S) to be rezoned from industrial to a direct control district after hearing from a single county resident who attended.

Council approved the first reading on June 4, 2020.

It was noted the rezoning of this land will have no impact on the future development of the site, even if the village is not successful in obtaining the thermal treatment plant.

All development permit applications for the parcel would be reviewed by council, rather than the Municipal Planning Commission, which would ensure that there could be no appeal launched against the permit.

Farvolden Building planter/roof repairs

A need to have the Farvolden building planter and roof repaired has reached a peak.

The 2020 operating budget includes $3,520 to repoint the brickwork on the Farvolden Building planter but administration and public works have requested that council consider modifying the planter by reducing the height to allow for safer access to the planting area.

A quote for $9,100 was received from Roma Masonry Inc. for removing 2 ft. of brick from the planters on the west and south side of the building.

Administration asked council to hold off on the repairs until 2021 before planting season so this amount could be added to the budget as the funds were not expended for this year.

“Our budget is getting hammered this year,” said CAO Moffat.

Coun. Coutts said he was nervous about changing the planter and questioned if the work was really necessary to do.

Moffat had spoken with members of the Communities in Bloom (CiB) committee who are ‘not spring chickens anymore’ as they are typically the ones doing all the work.

The planter, being hard to access at a tall height has become a safety hazard for both the CiB volunteers and public works staff for planting and rototilling.

ATB mentioned they prefer the planter there as it makes the ATM less accessible.

Council agreed to defer the repairs to 2021 and did not decide on whether to lower the planter two feet or not at this time.

On May 21, 2020, administration had issues with the roof of the Farvolden Building leaking in three different locations.

Emergency patchwork has been done already but a more concrete solution was required.

The last time it was replaced was in 2006.

Council discussed the issue and reviewed the initial quote during the June 4, 2020 council meeting and directed administration to obtain a second quote for the repair. 

Since then, two bids have come in. 

Council accepted the recommendation by administration to go with Remstar Roofing for $71,505.78 with a buffer of up to $90,000 for any additional work if needed.

CAO Moffat anticipates they will start work this week.

Police downloading costs

Effective last year, all municipalities are now responsible for a portion of the costs related to the additional 500 RCMP and support staff being brought into Alberta.

The costs begin at $15,198 for 2020, $22,813 for next year, $30,396 for 2022 and $45,627 for 2023 and beyond.

Although these costs have been downloaded to municipalities, there have been no options made available for how to fairly distribute these costs to residents and businesses.

At this time Alberta Municipal Affairs is stating that the policing costs cannot be recovered through utility bills or a flat tax.

Coun. Fossen requested that council start a letter writing campaign to the Province of Alberta requesting that they be allowed to recover the costs through utility bills or a flat tax as it would allow municipalities to fairly distribute the costs throughout the community.

If a flat tax is used, any non-taxable properties (school, seniors housing, churches) would not be responsible for covering any of the cost of a service that is being provided to all.

However, a flat tax would be beneficial to rural municipalities that do have access to a utility billing system. 

Administration felt that adding these costs to their municipal tax rate is unfair to those property owners with higher assessments, as all residents would be receiving the same level of service from the RCMP.

Fossen spoke with lots of people with this since the news broke.

“Maybe the cities can afford to pay but for small communities… it may never need the police. It should be an equal cost to everyone.”

Council agreed to send an already-prepared letter to the province as well as the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association and Rural Municipalities Association and any other surrounding communities.

“It will get the province talking with us,” she said.

Regional Governance Report 

The Village of Forestburg was the managing partner for the final grant provided by Alberta Municipal Affairs for the Flagstaff Intermunicipal Partnership Regional Governance Project.

As a requirement of the grant, the village is required to submit a final report to Alberta Municipal Affairs. The report has been prepared and submitted.

As this project did not end with a consensus on the next steps for this project, administration has requested that all participating municipalities review the report and approve a motion to take no further action on the regional governance project and the proposed regional amalgamation will not proceed.

Council reluctantly passed a motion to do this also, putting the project officially to bed.

Future of Forestburg 

Mayor Blaise Young submitted a letter on the future of Forestburg sighting issues like possibly retaining a trained economic development officer for development of a commercial subdivision.

He also talked about the possible development of a municipal incubator business much like the ones done in the 70s and 80s.

He had an idea of developing a second-hand store in the current fire hall once it is vacated as was construction of a washroom and maintenance room structure noted.

“We know what is going on in rural Alberta. Tourism will be the second largest industry next to agriculture,” said Mayor Young. “We need to become proactive.”

His solution to this was creating the Historic Park Project including moving the Wanda School, located west of the village, into the village.

He said he would not ask Flagstaff County ‘for one cent’ as he feels confident in source funds from heritage-based grants and ice cream sales from the race track.

Young said he would like to speak with representatives of the federal Western Diversification Grant as Forestburg is one of the few communities identified to be a coal-affected community in need of transition dollars.

Dep. Mayor Coutts requested a solid business plan and maps and dollar figures toward the historic park project which Mayor Young said he was happy to provide in the future.

“Tourism is a big part of our future in Forestburg,” said Young.

Mayor Young requested a one-year time extension from council for this project and asked for permission to speak with Western Diversification which was carried.

Cemetery consolidation

Forestburg currently has two cemeteries which are owned and operated by the village: the Forestburg Public Cemetery located at SE 34-41-15 W4M and the Baptist Cemetery located at PT NW 35-41-15 W4M.

Administration asked if council would declare both cemeteries to be public cemeteries as it would allow administration to approach the Forestburg Cemetery Society to take the current Baptist Cemetery under their supervision.

The Forestburg Cemetery Society could work with administration and public works on rehabilitating and beautifying the Baptist Cemetery. 

This consolidation of the two cemeteries would not result in a loss of the identity of the Baptist Cemetery as a portion of the cemetery could be set aside specifically for use by Baptists, but would allow the Cemetery Society to deal with the site under its current bylaws. 

Administration and public works believe that the location of the Baptist Cemetery could result in tourism stops within the village if they were able to work on beautifying the space.

Council accepted this request.

“This one at the highway could really use some beautifying which could be a good thing. [There are] No downsides to this,” said Coun. Coutts

Town eyesores

Two village related items were brought up during the Committee of the Whole (COW) discussion by Coun. Elaine Fossen.

The first was the ‘eyesore’ woodpile at the Fas Gas station which is rumoured to now have a family of foxes taking ownership of it.

It was pointed out to be private property but Coun. Dwayne Giroux said that after speaking with the fire department and the owners, the firefighters will come by soon to conduct a controlled burn.

Coun. Fossen’s other concern was the recent news of a large psilocybin production lab bust in town and how these are the people they can attract if left unchecked.

“It’s too bad we can’t do more about the actual buildings and houses that are derelict and abandoned,” said Coun. Giroux.

Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Debra Moffat said, “It’s all in the process right now – two of them at least.”

The problem is that you can’t designate a derelict property from a non-derelict property. It’s either residential or you could split residential into multi-family or single-family for different taxes but our minimum tax is supposed to be the same for absolutely everybody. 

“So if you raise the tax too high and then someone can’t afford to live anywhere else, you’re taxing them out of their home.”

“It’s a fine line,” she added.

Master Rates Bylaw 

The master Rates Bylaw was brought to council simply to reflect an amendment to the campground fees, showing all year-round access.

Winter camping, starting Nov. 1 and ending April 30, now shows that powered sites will cost $50 daily, $350 weekly or $1,400 monthly.

Council carried the bylaw with the new additions.

The municipal campground policy was also amended to show the campground is open year-round and that reservations are recommended as it is no longer on a first-come-first serve basis.

Administration has set up an e-transfer system to receive payments upon booking.

Coun. Fossen pointed out that one line in the policy that speaks about how many campers are allowed at one sight was confusing.

It stated that a maximum of six adults and accompanying children could be on one campsite which meant a maximum of 36 people could be on that one small site.

“I thought that was too many,” said Fossen.

CAO Moffat said it has always been that way.

Coun. Coutts asked about the cemetery plots and where they fell in terms of cost compared to other neighbouring communities.

CAO Moffat explained she had done a comparison and found Forestburg to be ‘right in the mix’ at $200 for a regular 5×10 plot.

Some she found to be as high as $500.

Council left the plot rates as they are.

Development permit

The village received a development permit requesting that a building located in a Direct Control District be demolished.

As Direct Control districts are the responsibility of council to control, administration brought it to council for approval.

The property located at 4901 – 51 Avenue (Plan 1077KS; Block 21; Lot 1) was used as a storage area for a local business.

The property owner felt the building was a safety issue and has since requested permission to remove it from the property. 

The owner of the property has been proactive and has already removed the building with the assistance of the Forestburg Fire Department. 

Council accepted the request.

Asset Management Policy

First steps of the asset management policy produced by Munisight were approved by council.

The policy is to ensure that all departments, including council, are working together to ensure that the best plans are made for infrastructure operations, maintenance, replacement and construction.

The policy has been prepared by MuniSight Ltd. and is part of the regional project being undertaken by the villages of Alliance, Forestburg, Heisler, Lougheed and the towns of Sedgewick, Hardisty and Killam.

This project is being paid for by an Alberta Community Partnership grant which is being managed by the Town of Sedgewick.

The next steps in the project will be the development of an asset management strategy and an asset management plan.

The Asset Management Steering Committee includes the CAO, assistant CAO and public works foreman.

CAO Moffat mentioned this document is ‘high level’ and is basically a preamble to the plan which will be in the future.


Terri Huxley

ECA Review

About the author

Terri Huxley

Terri grew up on a grain farm near Drumheller, Alberta with an eye for the beautiful and uncharted. Living in such a unique and diverse area has helped her become the photographer and reporter she is today.

Coming from the East Central region getting this newspaper on her dinner table growing up, it helped her understand the community she now serves.

In May 2019, Terri was awarded Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association (AWNA) Canada's Energy Citizens Photographic Awards Sports Action – First Place as well as first for the same sports action image nationally with the Canadian Community Newspaper Association (CCNA). Fast forward to 2020, she has won second in the same category for the AWNA.