The County of Stettler council debated the topic of land sterilization during their regular meeting April 14.
During the part of the agenda titled “council’s request for information,” Coun. Ernie Gendre voiced concerns about “land sterilization,” noting the recent efforts of a company called Alberta BioBord to buy land near Stettler to build a medium density fibreboard plant.
Gendre noted it seemed to him Alberta BioBord had trouble finding suitable industrial land near the Town of Stettler that was not near residences.
Gendre asked his council peers if they should consider a moratorium on acreages within a certain distance of towns like Stettler, as the number of acreages appears to be having the effect of discouraging business.
Coun. James Nibourg responded to Gendre, noting area structure plans (ASPs) set out future development of regions and the County of Stettler works with the Town of Stettler on such plans to plan ahead for future development.
Nibourg also stated that what one person thinks is acceptable, another person may consider unacceptable and disagreements in land planning always seem to be present.
Nibourg stated as far as he knows there is lots of industrial land available east of Stettler and “…prices are what they are.” The closer you get to town, he noted, the more the prices go up. Nibourg stated he felt the acreage situation around Stettler was fine.
Coun. Cheri Neitz added that she strongly supported working with the town on ASPs because when people buy property they know exactly what to expect in the future when it comes to development.
County Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Yvette Cassidy stated that the Intermunicipal Development Plan (IDP) between the town and county is currently being updated.
Also during the “council’s request for information” portion of the meeting, Coun. Les Stulberg wanted to discuss the issue of rural crime which he said is an ongoing issue and it appears the bulk of the crime involves repeat offenders.
Stulberg stated he was concerned criminal suspects benefit from the provincial/federal government “catch and release” justice system.
During a recent meeting with Alberta’s Justice Minister Kaycee Madu it was pointed out the Criminal Code (CC) is federal legislation and issues with the CC can only be addressed in Ottawa.
Stulberg stated the CC has “so many issues, it must be addressed” and suggested the County of Stettler contact both the provincial and federal governments to voice the concern that the CC appears to be failing rural Canadians and needs to be examined.
Stulberg added he knows the system is slow, but at least the county could get the ball rolling.
Coun. Nibourg agreed with Stulberg but wasn’t sure how to start the process.
Director of Municipal Services Andrew Brysiuk stated a good starting point would be the provincial justice department and the solicitor general.
Coun. Neitz also agreed, adding crimes seems to be ramping up again and a lot of repeat offenders seem to be coming back to the Stettler area.
Councillors unanimously agreed to send a letter of concern to the provincial government.
Gendre also brought forward his concern about brushing requests, which involves residents requesting the county’s public works department to cut back brush from road right-of-ways.
Gendre stated he wanted to know where the county draws the line as it seems a lot of requests have been coming in and also wondered if it was fair to all County of Stettler ratepayers to subsidize those requests.
Coun. Dave Grover stated brushing is important as it improves sightlines and road safety for everyone.
Director of Operations Rick Green stated Stettler County has a brushing policy which sets priorities, primarily the benefit of the road, noting that clearing brush for new fences is not a priority.
Green also stated brushing can be completed more quickly now because there’s no more “burn and bury” and that his department has been able to clear a lot of the backlog.
Reeve Larry Clarke stated that councillors should look closely at their brushing level of service in light of the tight budget situation.
Gendre added that he felt brushing requests for new fences should be cost-shared with the property owner and shouldn’t be solely carried by the county.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter