Summer Village of Rochon Sands’ bid to annex 454 acres from the County of Stettler has been rejected.
In a report released earlier this week, the Municipal Government Board recommended the application be denied, arguing that allowing the annexation would put the Buffalo Lake summer village on shaky financial ground.
Since losing the land would cut 3.2 per cent from the county’s property assessment base, compensation would be required from the summer village to soften the financial blow.
Typically, municipalities losing land to annexation are given a percentage of taxes from the lost land on a sliding scale over a period of years.
Using that system, the board estimates the county should get $192,700 in the first year. Considering the summer village only took in $117,400 in municipal taxes in 2009, compensating the county would put the summer village in a “precarious financial position,” says the report to Municipal Affairs Minister Hector Goudreau, who has final say on the application.
Generating enough money to compensate the county would mean hiking property taxes, depleting an existing surplus or drastically reducing services.
“In the board’s view it would be unfair to recommend an annexation that would leave the existing summer village residents subject to these consequences without having been adequately consulted by the municipality.”
The board also noted the summer village — which has 66 permanent residents but a summer population of 600 — has 106 acres of developable land available.
In its application, the village argued it needed the land because the community is growing and most available land is tied up with a developer who does not want to sell lots or build.
That has led to development outside the summer village that would normally have occurred within its borders.
That justification didn’t wash with the board, which says it is “not convinced that land is currently frozen. Rather, the 106 acres will likely be developed given appropriate market conditions.”
County communications director Shawna Benson said they are pleased with the decision, which reflects the county’s concerns about the financial impact of annexation on Rochon Sands.
The county is working on a pair of plans, the Buffalo Lake Intermunicipal Development Plan and South Shore Area Structure Plan that will guide development and will involve input from Rochon Sands, Benson said.
The summer village will have as much say at the table as other municipalities involved in the plans, she said.
“We are committed to working with Rochon Sands,” she said, adding nothing will change with that relationship.
Rochon Sands’ annexation bid has a long history. The summer village first applied to annex a smaller chunk of land in 2003. The two municipalities had more than a dozen mediation sessions before the county ultimately rejected the proposal.
A second annexation application was filed in 2007, but progress was slow and mediation solved nothing.
A five-day hearing was held before the Municipal Government Board last November.
Rochon Sands Mayor Wayne Miller could not be reached for comment.
— copyright Red Deer Advocate