By Trevor Busch
Efforts to fold roughly 900 acres of public land west of Highway 864 into the boundaries of the Town of Taber is close to being approved by the province, says Mayor Andrew Prokop.
“Basically, it’s approved at both council levels, the M.D. and Town of Taber, and without any resistance from the M.D. as a result in the end. So it goes forward to the ministry (Municipal Affairs) next, in the application process. Generally speaking, when there’s no issues attached to it and all parties are in agreement with what’s in place in the ask, then as I understand it usually runs relatively smooth and fairly quickly.”
Following closed session discussion on June 10, council voted unanimously to endorse the final report and directed administration to submit the necessary documentation to the Municipal Government Board as an application to annex the subject lands from the jurisdiction of the Municipal District of Taber into the Town of Taber, and authorized the endorsement of the “Report of Accuracy” regarding the proposed annexation.
An annexation is a process where a municipality permanently acquires and incorporates territory of an adjacent non-contiguous municipality.
The town’s main argument in favour of the annexation was consideration of the need for an enhanced law enforcement presence in the area once various recreational projects are finalized.
“We started this around about a year ago, and for obvious reasons with our trout pond infrastructure, we’re looking to police that on our own 24 hours (a day),” said Prokop. “There’s about 900 acres, and it includes the trout pond area all the way down to the landfill (Taber Landfill Transfer Station), and beyond that. As it currently isn’t annexed as town limits, our police service doesn’t have jurisdiction there technically. It can, if they observe something, but it isn’t an active patrol area. So in order to get all those things involved in place, you would have to make those areas part of an annexation that brings that land into the town limits, then everything applies for the local police service to look after that accordingly.”
After closed session discussion in February 2018, council had voted to begin the annexation process for lands located west of the town’s boundaries and including the Taber Landfill Transfer Station and Taber Trout Pond. The process was in alignment with the Municipal Government Act, Division 6, and the Municipal Government Board’s annexation process and principles.
“The M.D. CPOs were great for attending out there when they could, but they primarily work the day shifts,” continued Prokop. “Some evenings here and there, but for sure no night shifts. They can only do so much for it — and they have been, they’ve been a great help to us that way — but it’s not exactly what we were looking for. We thank them for what they’ve been able to do for us, but it’s great to be able to police it 24/7, and that’s exactly what’s going to happen once this is finally approved. I don’t think it will take much longer as I understand it, with no resistance to that application and ask.”
Municipalities are required to give written notice to their neighbours when initiating the annexation process, and Alberta’s legislation also mandates negotiations. A report on the negotiation must be submitted to the Municipal Government Board, who deliberate on the matter before recommending a decision to the provincial government.
“It’s fairly common, what we were doing with negotiations and offers made attached, it’s fairly commonplace there’s really nothing new, it’s just kind of the standard,” said Prokop. “Either they’re accepting of that or they’re not, and in this case they were. In the end, everybody’s happy with the results.”
In August 2018, M.D. council received a letter of notification from the town. The annexation land specified in the letter was eight parcels of land owned by the town and four privately-owned parcels.
“The proposed annexation is a logical and contiguous expansion of the town boundary. It reflects the town’s ownership of 898 acres of the 957 acres proposed for annexation and the substantial town investment in infrastructure. These investments include the development of the town’s landfill, waste transfer station, stormwater outfall structure, the dog park, rodeo grounds, an integral component of the town’s walking trail network and development associated with the trout pond,” stated the town’s notice of annexation submitted to the M.D.
Between 2001 and 2016, Alberta underwent 210 annexations, with almost 25 per cent of Alberta municipalities involved in annexations between 2006 and 2010, which led the nation. The M.D. hasn’t seen many annexations over the past few years, with the last formal annexation in 2007 in relation to the Village of Barnwell.
Concerns that did arise with the annexation hinged on potential tax changes for area residents, according to Prokop.
“Well sure, that and anybody that bought out there originally maybe wasn’t thinking that would be annexed to the town. I don’t know how anybody could think that for sure, because it’s a stone’s throw away, right? With growth, you’re going to get annexation requests. Coaldale had it happen here in the last couple of years. It’s all about growth and infrastructure enhancements that require policing. That’s the biggest reason behind it.”
Following closed session discussion in January 2019, town council had added additional properties to the annexation proposal of “lands located south of Highway 3, west of 50th Street” and including the town reservoir lands (Title #170 201 740, 961 060 179, 091 206 496, and 153E65). This resolution would later be rescinded by town council after more in camera discussion on Feb. 25.