Big Lakes wants Crown land in Faust

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Big Lakes County remains committed in its effort to apply to buy Crown land in Faust that was originally offered for sale in 2014.

At its regular meeting Feb. 14, council approved a motion to not withdraw their application to purchase one quarter of land north of Highway 2 on the east side of Faust with the land description Pt. NW 11-73-11-W5.

Council declined a request received Jan. 18 from Alberta Forestry and Parks for council to withdraw its application to purchase the land as reported by Pat Olansky, director of community services and planning.

Faust Councillor Robert Nygaard expressed strong opposition to the government request.

“It’s a perfect place for an industrial park,” Nygaard said.

“It’s a sad thing for the government to say the hamlet can’t expand. How is the hamlet going to grow without this land?”

Olansky told council the land was a possible location for economic development.

“Development of an industrial business park has been a long-term goal for the County and securing NW 11-73-11 W5 as a potential location was important to the County’s future growth and sustainability,” Olansky said.

Council was notified by Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development in September 2014 the land would be offered for sale.

On Oct. 7, 2014, council submitted an application to Alberta Environment and Parks to acquire the quarter section offering one quarter of County-owned land in exchange.

However, the offer has significantly changed in the past month, she noted.

“Correspondence was received Jan. 18 from the lands operations division of Alberta Forestry and Parks advising that the department has assessed the application and is requesting the County withdraw its application to purchase,” Olansky said.

The nature of the initial has changed significantly and some information is now outdated, particularly the First Nations consultation process.

Other issues include the presence of a wetlands in the northern half of the land, the areas required by Alberta Transportation and Economic Corridors for eventual expansion of Highway 2 and concerns raised by the public.

“With these challenges, Alberta Forestry and Parks recommends withdrawal of the application,” Olansky said.

Alberta Environment and Parks completed an appraisal of the Crown land and determined the land offered by Big Lakes was not of equal value, she noted.

“Although the likelihood of any portion of the lands being sold to a third party is low, in the event of a public lands disposition application by a third party, the County would have the opportunity to offer input before any decision is finalized,” Olansky said.

She noted council can choose to secure the lands through a Crown land reservation on the lands.

A CLR would reference the 2018 Faust area structure plan and could include a reservation prohibiting the surface sale of the land to any other party without prior consent from Big Lakes.

Past councils supported plans to acquire the land for various reasons.

  • The land could be used for highway commercial development due to its proximity to Highway 2.
  • The land could be easily serviced.

Municipal water and sewer extend to the western boundary of the quarter.

  • At one time, the alignment of Highway 2 was situated through the quarter, which indicates the land would be suitable for development.
  • The parcel is in proximity to the House Mountain collector road. Big Lakes built the road to serve as an all-weather access to the Swan Hills oilfield area for the north. Having a road from the north into that area expands employment opportunities within Big Lakes.

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