by Colin Smith
A new policy adopted by Council at its regular meeting Tuesday will enable Morinville’s Chief Administrative Officer to authorize land transactions.
The policy establishes a Land Management Framework intended to formalize administrative procedures for planning, managing and using Town-owned lands, including potential sales and purchases.
Currently, Morinville has about 162 hectares of Town-owned land, including parks, public utility lots and non-reserve designated lands. The policy applies to all Town-owned lands, regardless of size.
According to an Administration background summary, in recent months investors have been looking at purchasing Town-owned lands for private development purposes.
The previous procedure was for Town Council to review these offers, and the expected new use of the lands, at its regularly scheduled meetings.
However, it is considered that this method can be awkward and prohibitive to investment, as developers often require quick turnaround decisions for financing, construction and project delivery.
The Land Management Framework is intended to deal with this issue, as well as the Town’s long-term needs for future service locations and expansions.
It sets out rules and procedures for considering how to best utilize Town-owned lands for future needs, along with looking at future needs and goals, including service enhancements, collaborations, partnerships, municipal facilities, and potential private sales.
Town projects for which land may be needed include a park ‘n’ ride facility, new fire hall, new RCMP/Bylaw/Emergency Services building, enhanced or replacement Infrastructure Services facility, community hub and affordable/supportive housing.
Under the policy, the CAO or designate can authorize Town-owned land activities that align with Council’s strategic direction and expectations.
Land requests shall be managed by Planning and Economic Development, which will establish and manage an inventory of Town-owned land.
The Town will seek community input on a proposed land request when required by the Public Engagement Policy or deemed appropriate by Council. Accessibility, community benefit and impacts to adjacent properties will be taken into consideration.
Land sale or purchase decisions will be reveied by Council in a closed session, with any voting decisions made in a public meeting
Revenue generated from the sale of Town-owned land will be directed to a reserve fund to be set up.
“I think this absolutely a much needed in the right direction,” said Councillor Stephen Dafoe. “It does provide clarity on process and everything else.”
Dafoe added that consistent marketing is needed to ensure that everyone can become aware when the Town is selling land.
Councillor Scott Richardson said he has he talked to some people who feel there has been a lack of transparency in some past land sales.
“I think this eliminates that,” he said. “This sets a process that everyone knows and allows that transparency to happen.”
“I think one of the great pieces about this is a really forward motion and some of that red tape reduction we’re always talking about,” said Councillor Rebecca Balanko. “There’s a clear path and the people who know the business inside and out are the ones moving things forward.”
Mayor Barry Turner concluded the debate on the policy.
“As we continue to grow and develop, a key consideration is that when we are considering opportunities to either acquire or dispose of properties that we check-in with the priorities of the community,” he said. “That’s clearly illustrated in the policy.”
Approval of the policy, moved by Councillor Sarah Hall, was passed unanimously.