Lacombe County to charge fee for appealing stop work orders

$500 non-refundable fee meant to discourage nuisance appeals

In a move aimed to discourage nuisance appeals, Lacombe County will charge a fee for challenging stop-work orders.

Most Alberta municipalities charge a fee to appeal a decision or stop-work order to subdivision and development appeal boards. All but one of 28 municipalities contacted charged a fee — ranging from $100 to $1,000.

Until Thursday, Lacombe County had been among the few not to charge a fee for appeals. It costs the county about $1,800 to hold an appeal board hearing.

County councillors proved reluctant on Thursday to begin charging residents or applicants who want to appeal development permit or subdivision approvals.

Some on council feared charging a fee would penalize residents with legitimate concerns about an approval.

Coun. Ken Wigmore suggested a compromise that would see applicants appealing the rejection of their projects charged a fee, but others — such as affected neighbours — would not face a charge.

County manager Tim Timmons cautioned against that approach.

“Really, you’re discriminating against one party over another,” said Timmons. “I don’t see the appropriateness in that.”

In the end, charging a proposed $200 appeal fee for application approvals was unanimously defeated.

However, council viewed a proposal to charge a $500 fee to appeal stop-work orders in a different light.

County planning services director Dale Freitag told council stop-work orders are rarely issued, and only after a number of attempts to resolve outstanding issues.

“They don’t get a stop-work order unless they’ve really breached,” said Freitag. “Every once in a while, you have someone who really wants to fight.”

It was proposed that the $500 stop-work order fee not be refundable.

Coun. Brenda Knight suggested that would do what is intended.

“If you’re trying to make things not frivolous, the no refund will do it.”

The appeal fee will not kick in until the county updates its fees policy later this year.

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