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Woodlands County to exchange land at airport to fix an old mistake

Roadway built years ago on private property without compensating landowner, while private building extends into Public Utility Land
Woodlands County Sign
Woodlands County councillors voted on a motion at their June 1 meeting to provide a private property-owner 0.66 acres of land at the Whitecourt Airport in exchange for 0.07 acres of private land. Both parties will pay 50 per cent of the necessary land title and legal fees.

In an effort to rectify some old mistakes made years ago involving the construction of a road and a building at the Whitecourt Airport, Woodlands County councillors passed a motion at their June 1 meeting to enter into an agreement to exchange two small portions of land with a private company.

The agreement with Airborne Energy Solutions will see the county exchange 0.66 acres of Public Utility Lane (PUL) for 0.07 acres of privately-owned land. 

Both parties will pay 50 per cent of the land title and legal fees, which will come to about $2,500 for the county. 

According to director of infrastructure Andre Bachand, who also delivered this information to the Airport Advisory Committee on May 20, a road was re-aligned within the airport a number of years ago. 

Bachand told council that the road was built on private property. It was never registered and the property-owner was never compensated. 

Compounding this error was the construction of a building on the opposing property. This building structure was placed partially on the next lot, which is a Public Utility Lane where gas, telephone and possibly power lines are located. 

Bachand said that when administration surveyed the property, they determined that the roadway took up 0.07 acres of private property, while the building was 3.89 metres over the property line and extending into the PUL. 

Bachand gave council a number of options to rectify these mistakes, such as removing the road structure or purchasing the land where the building is located and removing it. 

However, the easiest option would be to simply exchange a portion of county land for the portion of private land where the road is located. 

Bachand said they had had discussions with Airborne Energy and they were favourable to the exchange. 

Coun. Ron Govenlock, who sits on the MPC, pointed out that this agreement depended on the commission approving a variance, which poses a problem as the MPC is supposed to be an independent body. 

He suggested that, rather than tieing the MPC’s hands to a certain outcome, it might be better to ensure the property not require a setback. 

Bachand said they looked at the option of applying for the variance ahead of time, but they simply can’t do it because they don’t own the property in question. 

Noting that this would also require the MPC to approve a lot line adjustment, Govenlock asked if there was any consideration given towards re-locating the utilities in the PUL. 

“I want to make sure we are doing this with thorough thought without repeating mistakes,” he said. 

Bachand said anything can be relocated if you’re willing to pay for it, but the cost to do so would be thousands of dollars more. 

Mayor John Burrows said it was good that this situation was getting rectified, but pointed out that the errors hadn’t been caught for a long time and he had seen similar situations crop up before. 

He asked how the county was able to build a road on land they didn’t own and how a private entity was able to construct a building partially on land they didn’t own. As well, he asked what mechanisms are in place to ensure this doesn’t happen again. 

“It’s an awful ... expenditure of time and effort, and it’s frustrating for me to be dealing with this,” he said. 

Administration couldn’t answer how the road or building were constructed under these circumstances as it occurred years ago, but CAO Gordon Frank suggested this scenario could be avoided with the appropriate guidelines and procedures in place to govern future development.

Kevin Berger, TownandCountryToday.com



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