County challenges provincial government on cemetery issue

“We’re the little brother in the equation, whether we like it or not.” CAO Charlie Cutforth

In order to protect Ponoka County residents from unrightfully zoned development, Ponoka County council and administration are issuing a stop order to the provincial government with regard to the development of a Sharphead Indian cemetery.

Alberta Culture is enthusiastic to begin development on 116 acres — three lots — currently zoned country residential. The land was purchased by the Crown and has remained undeveloped with plans for developing the Sharphead Indian cemetery there.

However, as with all land purchased within Ponoka County, the council still remains in control of land rezoning. “This does not conform with the county’s land use bylaws,” said CAO Charlie Cutforth in reference to Alberta Culture’s plan.

He feels, at the very least, the provincial government should apply to the county for rezoning. “They have the legal opinion that they’re not required to do that.”

To fight back on that ground, Cutforth says the county would have to take the issue to court, which could prove costly. “We’re the little brother in the equation, whether we like it or not. I think our chances of being successful are marginal.”

“Ponoka County exists at the pleasure of the provincial government,” he added.

Cutforth feels the council’s best option is to issue a stop order on the project, push non-compliance and see how the provincial government reacts. “I think that’s the best action we have within our power to utilize.”

Reeve Paul McLauchlin feels the choices the government is making does not respect landowners. “And I do have some questions on the whole process that led up to this.”

“I think the Crown has made a poor choice,” he added.

Cutforth told council if Alberta Culture would communicate with landowners on the project, they would be facing less resistance now.

Assistant CAO Tom Webber told councillors the county could face class action lawsuits from ratepayers if they feel their quality of peace has been diminished.