February 7/23 Council Update
TWO APPLICATIONS FOR ROAD CLOSURE IN DIVISION 4 REFUSED
Two applications by neighbouring landowners to close the same road allowance, in the
northwest portion of Division 4. were refused. Administration recommended refusal. The
neighbours spoke in opposition to their each other’s application and there was opposition from neighbouring landowners.
The neighbours to the north currently have a grazing licence for the road allowance, however since acquiring the lease, had not used the land for grazing purposes. Meanwhile, the neighbours to the south do not have a fence on their side of the road allowance as they had thought the land was theirs and have been grazing the land for decades. Both neighbours stated the road allowance was impassable.
To complicate matters, Administration noted that closing the road would potentially landlock a parcel to the east, whose only other access would be off Hwy 22. Under current policy, the Province is no longer allowing additional access points off the highway. On this logic, I moved to refuse both applications.
Administration was unable to explain how the lease was granted to the neighbour to the north despite opposition (and occupation) by the neighbour to the south. As the neighbour to the south noted, the issue wasn’t really about ownership, it was who could use it for cattle grazing. As such, I asked that Administration work with both applicants to figure out who should have the licence.
BRAGG CREEK BREWERY / HOTEL GRANTED DEVELOPMENT PERMIT
The development permit for ‘The Laskin’ in Bragg Creek was approved unanimously. The
boutique style hotel will have 21 units, a restaurant and will be home to the Bragg Creek
During the approval process, concerns were raised about parking and privacy with the
neighbouring parcel. In response to the parking issue, the applicants purchased an ancillary lot that would allow for 17 stalls of parking. They also obtained an additional 36 spots off-site. Regarding the privacy issue, the applicants committed to building a fence.
LATE PAYMENT TAX PENALTY BYLAW AMENDED
Under the previous bylaw, the penalty for late payment of taxes was 12%. Taxes are due June 30th, so anything received July 1st or later was subjected to the 12% penalty. Over the years, Council has received numerous requests to have the penalty waived. Many have cited the onerous nature of the penalty as reason for doing so. In the past, such requests have either been denied or reduced depending on the rationale.
In late 2021, Council asked Administration to report on potential penalty structures. In early 2022, Administration came forward with that report. The result was Council choosing to restructure the penalty to 4% payable July 1st onward, an additional 4% charged September 1st and, if still unpaid an additional 4% levied on November 1st. Due to tight timelines to implement the change in 2022, the change is effective for 2023’s taxes.
Administration stated that tax penalties generate almost $1 million a year, as a result, the
change could result in a loss of almost $500k per year. This didn’t make sense to me as it was already noted that the vast majority of those who do not pay their taxes by June 30th, don’t pay them by the following January, when an additional 12% is levied. To me, the new structure would not penalize those who had made an honest error in missing the payment deadline, but still address those who choose not to pay.
APPLICATION FOR TWO 2-ACRE LOTS IN DIVISION 6 REFUSED
An application to create two 2-acre lots in Division 6 was refused on a tie vote. Administration recommended approval.
The applicant had applied for a home-based business in 2015, however, the development
permit was never fulfilled. Because the parcel in question had been part of an enforcement file, Administration noted that Council could make a motion to defer a decision until the enforcement issue regarding storing vehicles on the property was addressed.
The applicant stated that she was unable to deal with the issue due to family health issues, however, she noted that she would have it cleaned up immediately should the application be approved.
Deputy Mayor Samra felt that the best course of action was to table until after the parcel was brought into compliance. He felt this would provide some assurances that the lands would be cleaned up appropriately. However, his motion was only supported by Mayor Kissel and me. Councillors Hanson, Kochan and Schule felt the matter could be addressed after approval was granted. Councillor Boehlke was absent.
Since a tie means defeat of the motion, Councillor Kochan then moved to approve the application. His motion was defeated on another 3-3 tie so the application was denied.
VOTERS LIST ABANDONED IN FAVOUR OF STRONGER VOTER IDENTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS
In 2022, I brought forward a motion to have the County explore the creation of a voters’ list. The rationale was to help streamline the voting process while also reducing potential
fraudulent voting. In a County where voter cheating has been reported and where candidates can win by a handful of votes, this is incredibly important.
This was not the first time a voters’ list had been explored. Under previous Councils, the
proposal to create a list was explored, however, it was shelved based on a recommendation of Administration as being too onerous.
In its research on the issue, Administration concluded that earlier reports were based on a faulty assumption that the County had to do a census before implementing a voters list. As was reported in the February 7th report to Council, this was not true and there were ways to create a voters’ list that were far less onerous from an administrative perspective. Administration then pointed out what had been missing in the earlier reports – what happened on voting day should a voters’ list be implemented.
Simply put, in Alberta, if a municipality uses a voters’ list there is no legal requirement for
electors to show identification at the polling stations. In essence, a voter can walk into a polling station, give a name (any name) and, if the name is on the voters’ list, the person must be given a ballot. To make matters worse, the election officials and scrutineers cannot object to a voter whose name is on the list. As a result, I could walk in and claim I’m John Smith and if John Smith’s name is on the voters’ list, I would be able to vote without anyone being able to do anything about it.
Since this creates more problems than having a voters list would solve, I made a motion to stop work on a voters’ list. The provincial legislation that governs municipal elections does permit municipalities to strengthen its voter identification requirements.
As a result, I made a motion to create stronger proof of eligibility requirements in future elections. My motion was supported unanimously. A new voter identification bylaw will come back to council before the end of the year.