Why are the taxpayers of Rimbey and Ponoka County subsidizing a local developer to the tune of approximately $420,000? With lower oil prices and stressed tax revenues, spending tax dollars for the benefit of a local developer seems ill advised.
In 2011, the Rimoka Housing Board adopted a plan that proposed to purchase eight to 10 acres of land to build a new seniors lodge in Rimbey. Only four to five acres are needed for a lodge, but the plan was to purchase eight to 10 acres to accommodate future growth when the time came to build a second building.
Early this year, Ponoka County taxpayers purchased eight-plus acres in the SJC development (behind the Best Western) for the new Rimbey seniors lodge. The land purchased is located inside an approved development plan that is governed by a development agreement. Technically these are called serviced lots, which means the developer is required to bear the cost to build the roads and add utilities (including water and sewer). Presumably the developer allocates these costs proportionately among the lots for sale.
So why are the taxpayers of Rimbey and Ponoka County paying roughly $240,000 to the developer to build a road? (The town has agreed to pay $140,000 and according to our mayor, the county will kick in another $100,000). The written agreement does not explicitly outline the county’s contribution; however, it references a side deal in an undisclosed separate agreement.
The Rimbey Area Structure Plan explicitly states the developer is required to pay all costs to develop. The plan also states the town will not compromise on this policy.
In Rimbey, a developer must also set aside 10 per cent of a development for a municipal land reserve. Presumably the developer distributes the cost of this requirement into the price of the lots. So why did the reeve and mayor give roughly one-third (or three-plus acres), which was intended for a future seniors lodge, back to the developer for the his land reserve requirement? The value of this land is approximately $100,000.
According to the mayor and reeve, the land was returned to the developer for storm water drainage and land reserve requirements. In addition, taxpayers will pay to construct a pond to collect the storm-water runoff at a cost that could save the developer as much $100,000. Why? The developer is supposed to pay these costs!
Taxpayers bought eight-plus acres for a new lodge, and gave back three-plus acres (at no cost) for the developer’s benefit. Why didn’t the taxpayers just buy a five-acre lot in the first place? I suppose in the end the taxpayers did buy a five-acre lot at an eight-acre price.
Who would buy a lot in a housing development and then give back one-third of the lot to the developer? No one would do this with his or her own money — so why did the mayor and reeve do this with taxpayers’ money?
The economy is precarious at best and tax dollars are being stressed. Using taxpayers’ dollars and secret undisclosed side-deals to subsidize a local developer needs to be investigated by the provincial government — this misapplication of tax dollars must stop!