WOODLANDS COUNTY – Lac Ste. Anne bylaw enforcement officers handed out more excessive speed tickets in Woodlands County than any other infraction in the third quarter of 2023.
And it wasn't even close.
Lac Ste. Anne County community peace officer Dallas Choma told Woodlands County councillors during their Oct. 25 meeting in Whitecourt that he and his officers handed 51 bylaw and Alberta Traffic Safety Act — 34 tickets for exceeding the maximum established speed limit.
Choma noted officers specifically target speeders and large trucks coming in and out of the West Fraser sawmill in Blue Ridge.
The next highest category was driving a motor vehicle with a cracked windshield that impeded the driver's view, followed by various dog complaints, two for aggressive dogs that either threatened, attacked or bitten individuals or other animals, one for being at large and one resident that exceeded the maximum number of dogs permitted in Woodlands County.
The latter, Choma later noted, was from a ratepayer that had recently relocated their breeding operation from Lac Ste. Anne County.
The total revenue collected for all the fines and four warning citations written was $12,445. However, he noted that the province's cut was 47 per cent.
At one time, Woodlands County did its own bylaw enforcement, but they dissolved the unit and contracted Lac Ste. Anne County to provide 80 hours of enforcement services monthly in 2020.
The first contract was for three years at $85,000 annually. In February 2023, Woodlands County renewed its contract with Lac Ste. Anne for five years, but the rate schedule changed to an hourly rate in 2023 starting at $140 per hour, going up by the same three per cent for each year of the contract, starting on Jan. 1. For the eleven months of 2023, the estimated service is projected to be $123,200.
Choma also said at the time he drafted his report, Lac Ste. Anne community peace officers had issued two cleanup enforcement orders for Woodlands County.
He added that Lac Ste. Anne officers, during the third quarter, also opened 18 incident files from complaints or reports passed on by Woodlands County.
Of those complaints, five are dog-related, but Choma said the number could be as high as nine, as he believes some of the complaints that were characterized as Priority 1 or 2 were also dog complaints.
He explained that when Lac Ste. Anne bylaw enforcement officers receive a complaint that doesn't fit into one of its pre-described categories in its computer software package; it logs them as either Priority 1 or 2.
Choma added that three other investigations were violations of the county's animal control bylaw; one was a noise complaint; three were unsightly property complaints; one was an Alberta Safety Act investigation, while one was an assistance call by a Woodlands County Fire Department.
SUB: Unsightly premises complaints
Whitecourt East Coun. Jeremy Wilhelm asked about the process regarding unsightly properties, saying he has received multiple complaints about the problem properties in his division.
Choma said Lac Ste. Anne bylaw officers investigate all unsightly complaints.
After investigating, if the officer deems the resident is not in compliance with the county's bylaw, they will issue an order.
He added that unsightly properties fall into two categories: unsightly properties 545 under the Municipal Government Act (MGA), which is unsightly property, and 546 dangerous properties.
"Each of which has its different type of order, with two different lengths of time to comply with the order," Choma said, adding the more common is unsightly properties, in which residents receive a compliance order, usually 30 days.
For the more common unsightly premises violation orders, he added, the ratepayer has 14 days to appeal it.
"Which is why the county has an enforcement review board," Choma said.
He added that in the more common and straightforward cases where the property owner does not appeal and the officer does not feel that an extension is warranted, they would proceed with "getting three quotes for cleanup/demolition and then get the property rectified through the county."
Choma said that the MGA allows municipalities to charge the offending landowner.
In the case, he said, where it is a structure, and the landowner tells the bylaw officer and county officials to get off the property, they would take the added step of getting a court order.
"That usually takes four to six weeks," Choma said. "After which the court usually grants us permission to clean up the site and charge the ratepayer."
Having said that, Choma said they try to work with the property owner as much as possible to rectify the issue without going to the courts.
Reeve Dave Kusch asked what the line is for an unsightly property, saying that the line could differ from someone moving into a rural area from the city.
Choma agreed, saying agriculture is a different ballgame under the county's land-use bylaw.
"We have to be very careful because agriculture is very important," he said, adding they received several complaints from residents in Fort Assiniboine about downed or improper fencing allowing cattle to escape wrecking trees.
Choma said that while bylaw officers speak with the property owner and give them suggestions, it is not a bylaw matter.
"It is more of a civil matter under the Line Fence Act," he said.
Goose Lake/Freeman River Coun. Peter Kuelken asked about someone on an agricultural property adjacent to Highway 661 dismantling and crushing vehicles, saying he was concerned about the environmental impact.
Choma agreed, calling it "an environmental nightmare".
"Crushing cars is one of the worst things people can do," he said. ."They are not draining the oil and fluids; they just leave it to drain all over the land."
In a case such as this, Choma said peace officers would first check to see if the resident had all the necessary permitting and business licences to conduct such an activity.
If not, he said, they would get a court enforcement order and contact Alberta Environment and Parks to get them involved.