The Town of Ponoka will go ahead with the sale of one acre of surplus land after hearing from residents during the public forum portion of the regular council meeting on March 23.
A total of 10 written comments had been received by the town by the March 22 deadline — all of which stated their opposition to the proposed development of a four-storey seniors condo building.
“To lose this greenspace would not be acceptable to myself and many of the residents,” read one statement.
“As owners in Heritage Estates, the enjoyment of this adjacent green space is key to our quality of life,” wrote another resident.
Common threads of concern included the high-use of the lot as a green space, sight lines, increased noise with traffic and construction.
The developers are Jim Hamilton (owner of Hamilton’s IGA) and Grant Jorgenson (owner and general manager of Calanah Builders Ltd.).
The partners showed their preliminary plan for the site south of the drop-in centre at a public meeting March 12.
The total lot is 1.5 acres, and the town passed a motion to accept an offer to purchase one acre of the land for $100,000 from 2313895 Alberta Ltd. The purchaser will be required to cover the cost of moving the cenotaph.
The sale of the land is conditional on a sale and construction agreement between the town and the purchaser. That agreement will outline requirements that the purchaser must fulfill before the sale can be completed.
The town received formal interest in purchasing the property in July.
Hamilton and town council met in an in-camera session on July 14, 2020, according to the town.
The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) legislation obligates the town to not publicly disclose information that may harm the private business interests of third parties.
The town had been considering declaring the lot as surplus and for a few years due to low public use, noted Mayor Rick Bonnett in information provided by town communications manager Sandra Smith.
The lot was declared surplus in September, 2020.
“Council has been reviewing the inventory of town-owned land for a number of years in order to identify under-utilized properties that council determines are surplus to Ponoka’s needs,” said Smith.
Criteria used to determine if a property is surplus to the town’s needs includes current and future programs and operational requirements of the town, and if offering it for sale will promote increased growth and economic development in Ponoka, generate new assessment and expand the town’s tax base.
Hamilton had previously stated that he held the right of first refusal for the lot since 1986 when he built the IGA store, should the lot ever be offered for sale.
However, the town says the land title on the property lists Cash Foods Ltd. (owned by Hamilton) as having the right of first refusal since 2001, but was unable to confirm if there was any such agreement in place before that date.
Furthermore, the town has no record showing the land was to be preserved as a green space.
“Our records show it was never designated as a Municipal Reserve and it has been zoned as IPU (Institutional and Public Uses) since the town’s Land Use Bylaw was adopted in 1997.”
The town received the offer to purchase the land in February. The remaining half-acre will be kept as a green space.
“This was a tough decision for council,” said Bonnett in a news release.
“Council voted in favour of it because our community needs new development that will bring in new tax dollars and increase our assessment base to help cover the ongoing cost of infrastructure maintenance and replacement,” he said.
“The latest provincial budget showed us that the government is shouldering an $18 billion deficit, and our provincial grant funding is being cut by 25 per cent. That’s likely just the beginning of the tough times that lay ahead.”
Electors who wish to further oppose the proposed sale have until May 18 to submit a petition. Detailed instructions on how to submit a valid petition can be found on alberta.ca.
The town says if a sufficient petition is received by the deadline, the town will rescind the motion to sell the land.