Couple urges county to strengthen unsightly premises bylaws

“It’s your rights against his rights, that’s what it comes down to.” Reeve Paul McLauchlin

Despite previously agreeing a conclusion had been reached, Ponoka County councillors are once again requesting unsightly premises landowner Albert Brown’s presence at council.

At council’s Aug. 19 meeting, adjacent landowners Gary and Pascal Duff expressed their dissatisfaction with how the situation has been handled.

It was Sept. 3, 2013 that the Duffs first stood before council regarding unwelcome development as they feel Brown is running a commercial auto wrecker business on land zoned agricultural.

However, council has no concrete opinion on the status of the business and the issue became an unsightly premises dispute.

“It has all the visibility of an auto wrecker operation . . . but the reality is the landowner had a different argument, and he’s entitled to that argument,” said CAO Charlie Cutforth.

Despite their final decision to contact Brown, council was hesitant to take further action after their stipulations to rectify the problem had been met.

“We have to follow what the previous council did, we can’t overturn that,” said Coun. Doug Weir.

However, later in the meeting he added that because complaints had been made about Brown’s property, council needed to take another look at the situation. “We as a council have to do something.”

“Can we arguably go back and chase after him for unsightly premises after he’s complied with council in the past? I don’t think so,” said Cutforth.

Pascal Duff feels it is the county’s way of dealing with such issues that has caused the situation to drag on so long without a resolution on both sides. “To go with nothing hard and fast, it’s ludicrous.”

“My point is it’s still unwelcome development, as per your municipal development plan. Nobody wants to live next to an auto wrecker, that’s what it says right in your plan,” said Gary Duff.

“At the end of the day you have the power to do something about it,” he added.

If the county’s bylaws were changed to handle these types of issues differently, Cutforth says there is a good chance every farmers’ “boneyard” in the county would be affected.

Reeve Paul McLauchlin stated the Duffs view of the situation is more black and white than it really is. He added that county actions must take note of the “grey area” regarding commercial operations and private collections, and enforced bylaws and landowner rights. “It’s a slippery slope when you dictate what people can and can’t store on their property.”

“It’s your rights against his rights, that’s what it comes down to,” he added.

Council also requested that Alberta Environment inspect the area in question. “On agricultural land, they were prepared to take no action,” said Cutforth.

The Duffs urged county councillors to take a look at bylaws used in other counties; something council agreed would be a good idea.