Reeve Schmidt asked if the council has noticed the removal of habitat on farmland, noting that farmers are slashing all of the trees and burying them because it is such a dry year. He said the RM requires a development permit for any digging.
Schmidt said the rule of thumb is that when habitat is removed from farmland, it must be replaced. He said they couldn’t stop someone who has something in a bad spot, but they are supposed to replace it by growing it somewhere.
He noted there had been no development permits. Councillor and farmer Bill McKenzie questioned Schmidt, asking did he mean brush clearing in fields? Schmidt said yes because the world is changing, noting a requirement from the European Economic Union asking the country they are buying from what they are doing with their habitat.
Schmidt said that he doesn’t mind a small area with site line issues, but when large areas are being cleared, the RM should have a development permit for farmers to do that work. He noted there wouldn’t be a cost, but that council should know about it.
Dixon said that clearing trees in the sloughs aren’t the problem but that when dams are constructed, pumping out the water to be developed into ag land is where the problems arise.
The CAO said she does not see that in the RM’s zoning bylaw anywhere, requiring a development permit for brush clearing.
The Reeve said the requirement of replacing habitat is because of animals.
Schmidt said he would look into it with the Ministry of Environment.
Council Discusses Allowing Hamlets to Provide Feedback on Permits
Councillor Dixon asked if the organized Hamlet boards have been notified of the development permits. The CAO said the development officer has been getting caught up with providing the information to the boards, noting that some of the officer’s challenges are receiving opposition from the boards or lots of questions for clarification as they provide the information. The CAO said she instructed the development officer the information being provided was just for the boards’ information as the application has been received and approved.
Dixon noted the board can’t dispute the permits but thought it would be helpful to include comments such as “requires tree removal.” Dixon said there had been an incident where the boundary should have been marked before construction and not after.
Councillor Labatte suggested using a feedback form for the Hamlets that was used in 2013. The CAO noted the feedback has no relevance to the approval or denial of the application as the information is sent at the time of approval. Labatte said the RM sent the feedback form upon application before approval.
Dixon said an opportunity to provide feedback within seven days would let the development officer know of issues that they may not be aware of, suggesting a site plan be sent on application. The CAO pointed out the applications are either approved or denied as per the zoning bylaw.
Items Arising as a result of the Admin Committee Meeting
The CAO submitted to council for their review two draft policies; one for weed control and one for clubroot.
In addition to the two policies the CAO also presented a clubroot bylaw meant to prevent and control clubroot in the RM.
The two policies and one bylaw were a result of recommendations arising from the Administration Committee meeting which occurred on May 5th.
The CAO pointed out that voluntary penalty fees were added to the bylaw and the contravention concerning the general penalty bylaw. The 1st offence under the voluntary penalty is $250, and the second offence is $500. The general penalty indicates $2000 for an individual and $5000 for a corporation.
Council passed both policies and the first reading of the bylaw without discussion.
SARM PSIP Appraisal and Agreement
The SARM appraisal item came from the admin committee for review by the council. The SARM appraisal program provides RM’s appraisals of all of their buildings without a cost to the RM’s. However, if the council chooses to have the appraisals completed, they have to agree to them as presented. The benefit is the appraisals are free of charge, and they will have an accurate valuation of their property values completed. The downside is that they won’t be able to choose their values, and the costs of their insurance rates may increase significantly. In addition, if the council decided against accepting the valuations, they would have to pay for the appraisals.
After some discussion council passed a motion to not enter into the program.
Report from Public Works Committee Meeting
The CAO reported that there was a lot of discussion at the committee meeting on old business. However, there were no recommendations that came out of the meeting.
Hamlet Committee Meeting Report
The CAO reported there were approximately 36 participants to the meeting representing organized and unorganized hamlets. The number included council and administration. She said there was a lot of discussion, and the committee made no recommendations. The next meeting will be held in the fall.
Councillor Garry Dixon, who chairs the Hamlet committee, said there was discussion around giving the hamlet’s authority to put on fire bans. However, he said that the council needs to be cautious on what authority they allow Hamlets as there are some things that the council cannot authorize and has to decide. He said that he needs to check with the legislation what authority the council can pass on. Until this has been done, there won’t be a recommendation.
Councillor Labatte didn’t understand why authority would need to be given concerning fire bans when the RM will be using a new communications system to inform ratepayers of fire bans. Councillor Dixon explained that because over a 40-mile distance along the lake that rainfall is not consistent, and some areas will be dryer than others.
Sun Dale Water and Sewer Report
Bo Black reported that he had the reverse osmosis membranes cleaned, which has improved the system’s efficiency. He has a hydro-vac scheduled to clean the raw water tank as there was past sediment that needs to be removed.
Black further reported that residents had removed the majority of the items from the fenced compound. However, a few boats, a shake, and a trailer remain by the north fence outside the staked-off area. Black has started to clean out junked Items left on the north side of the water treatment plant and east side fence.
The CAO reported the road signs have arrived, and public works are in the process of installing them. She also said she had received the 2021 Assessment Package, and she is in the process of reviewing it. Once the review is completed, assessment notices will be printed, and the assessment roll will be open. She expected this to happen in the week of May 18th.
The CAO will be providing a draft of the strategic planning survey to the council by the end of the week for feedback before finalizing it and sending it out. The survey will be open for ten days. Her goal was to have the survey sent out on May 21st using the new communication system. Reeve Schmidt acknowledged the communications system might not be active, and perhaps they could include the survey in the notices of assessment mailing. Councillor Dixon suggested that the summer roads staff be used to stuff envelopes if it distracted administration from doing other higher priority work. The CAO responded the roads guys are busy and had confidence administration would get the job done.
The Reeve also suggested that tax notices be sent out via email through the RM’s software. The CAO said she would look into the price for that product but believed it was approximately $1000.
The administration is working on a counteroffer to the Road Maintenance Agreements with Resort Villages.
Fox Point Advisory Committee
Councillor Dixon asked a member of Administration, Camille Box, where the RM was with the Fox Point Advisory Committee. She responded that she received ‘that email’ about wondering about members. Box did not expand on the contents of the email. She said she had responded and has not had a return response. Dixon said he was wondering if the RM was perhaps in dispute regarding the third member. The CAO said her recommendation is the RM schedules a Fox Point advisory committee meeting. Dixon responded, but they didn’t know who is to attend to, which the CAO replied the people were identified as per the council’s resolution. Dixon pointed out that it says, “as agreed upon.” The CAO responded, but what if we never agree? Then we may as well not even have this advisory committee.
Reeve Schmidt said they had noted that there was no dispute mechanism in place to resolve issues. Schmidt further said they need to schedule a meeting as there is land is being ripped up and dumping is occurring.
The next meeting of the council is on May 25th at 9am
Jennifer Argue, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Last Mountain Times