By Trevor Busch
The Town of Taber is preparing to submit an annexation report to the province’s Municipal Government Board as it finalizes details over a jurisdictional boundary shuffle with the Municipal District of Taber.
An annexation is a process where a municipality permanently acquires and incorporates territory of an adjacent non-contiguous municipality.
After closed session discussion in mid-February 2018, town council had voted to begin the annexation process for lands located west of the town’s boundaries and including the Waste Transfer Station and Taber Trout Pond. The process was to be in alignment with the Municipal Government Act, Division 6, and the Municipal Government Board’s annexation process and principles.
“We’ve reached out to the landowners within the annexation area. Verbally, I think we’ve reached an agreement with them,” said CAO Cory Armfelt at council’s March 25 meeting following a media inquiry. “I believe the letters have gone out to them for their endorsement. So that’s what we’re waiting on now is for those letters to come back endorsed by the residents, if they choose to do that. Then we’ll be putting that all in a package and sending it to the Municipal Government Board. So we’re in the very short strokes of that process before submitting a report to the Municipal Government Board.”
Municipalities are required to give written notice to their neighbours when initiating the annexation process, and Alberta’s legislation also mandates negotiations. A report on the negotiation must be submitted to the Municipal Government Board, who deliberate on the matter before recommending a decision to the provincial government.
In an interview in March 2018, Mayor Andrew Prokop confirmed the annexation involved roughly 900 acres of town-owned land and would have implications for M.D. taxes.
“We would be paying M.D. taxes there, but it’s not a huge bill for 900 acres. Because most of that isn’t developed, it’s not a huge bill.”
At the time, the town’s main argument in favour of the annexation was consideration of the need for an enhanced law enforcement presence in the area once various recreational projects are finalized.
“Jurisdictionally, right now the RCMP is in control and is responsible for that, but in our mind, the town would much rather have our Taber Police Service be responsible jurisdictionally for those areas because of all the vested interest and investment in that area,” said Prokop. “It’s a stone’s throw out of town limits. Because of all the enhancement changes, the recent investment, and the amount of activity we expect to be out there, we would like to be able to police that properly, and under our own jurisdictional boundary requirements.”
Between 2001 and 2016, Alberta underwent 210 annexations, with almost 25 per cent of Alberta municipalities involved in annexations between 2006 and 2010, which led the nation. While the process offers obvious benefits in some areas to municipalities, critics argue that when a municipality annexes land it still needs to be serviced with roads and utilities, which usually has a corresponding effect on property taxes to help foot the ensuing bill.
In August 2018, M.D. council received a letter of notification from the town. The annexation land specified in the letter was eight parcels of land owned by the town and four privately-owned parcels.
“The proposed annexation is a logical and contiguous expansion of the town boundary. It reflects the town’s ownership of 898 acres of the 957 acres proposed for annexation and the substantial town investment in infrastructure. These investments include the development of the town’s landfill, waste transfer station, stormwater outfall structure, the dog park, rodeo grounds, an integral component of the town’s walking trail network and development associated with the trout pond,” stated the town’s notice of annexation submitted to the M.D.
At that time, the town still needed to do a variety of different things in the next steps of the process.
“They have to prepare an annexation report and they have to share that report with the M.D., which the M.D. can consent with the report, which means they consent to the fact that what’s in the report is a fair and accurate representation from the deliberations. Even if you consent to the report, you can still object the annexation,” said Bonnie Brunner with the Oldman River Regional Services Commission.
The M.D. hasn’t seen many annexations over the past few years, with the last formal annexation in 2007 in relation to the Village of Barnwell.
Following closed session discussion in mid-January 2019, town council had added additional properties to the annexation proposal of lands located south of Highway 3, west of 50th Street, and including the town reservoir lands (Title #170 201 740, 961 060 179, 091 206 496, and 153E65). This resolution would later be rescinded by town council following more in camera discussion on Feb. 25.