Ponoka getting ready to sell off land it no longer wants

Empty properties along with facilities deemed too expensive to operate could be up for grabs

Empty land, such as the former town hall property, along with other properties council will determine as surplus could soon be on an annual list of land available for sale following passage of a revised disposal of land policy. Photo by Jordie Dwyer

A revised policy could see Ponoka divesting itself of several parcels of land previously considered assets to the community.

Town council — minus Mayor Rick Bonnett who was away on a personal trip — approved what is now called the land disposition policy during its meeting Oct. 23.

This is a replacement of the former disposal of surplus property policy, which consisted of one lone paragraph. The new policy, which takes up six pages, provides an update in order to comply with the recently revised Municipal Government Act (MGA).

Tim Schmidt, director of planning and development, explained the new policy will allow the town to dispose of any land — both surplus or otherwise — while also defining property that can’t be sold off along with defining the parameters for any potential sales.

“It is fairly complex and comprehensive,” Schmidt stated, noting there will be a cost to administer the policy on an annual basis.

“It is proposed this policy will come back to council each October to look at a list of proposed surplus land. Once council okays that list, we would then get an appraisal of those lands done and have council establish the price at either market value or less before offering the land up to the public.”

Schmidt added it’s estimated that a non-residential appraisal would cost $2,500 each plus any legal and other expenses. In addition, the surplus list would be made available to council during its budget discussions in order to prepare for any financial repercussions for the coming fiscal year.

The policy includes establishing what is surplus land — which may be undeveloped, developed and serviced or various reserve designations — as well as provisions for selling land that wasn’t formally placed for sale. Land that can’t be sold to private interests include any designated as environmental or conservation reserve

In addition, a land purchase must be paid in full up front and not paid back over time as the MGA prohibits municipal governments from essentially ‘loaning’ money to private buyers.

Lastly, the policy outlines the process for a land sale for less than market value to a private buyer. This includes advertising the proposed resolution publicly and should the resolution pass, a petition against the decision must be filed with the town within 60 days of the advertisement last appeared.

If the petition is ratified, then a referendum vote must be conducted within 90 days of that date.

This policy includes the Kinsmen Community Centre if council were to sell it.

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