Stettler town council surprised by 'insulting' vacant lot offer

·3 min read

Stettler town council turned down an offer for a vacant commercial lot that at least one of them referred to as “insulting” at their regular meeting Nov. 17.

Councillors read a report prepared for them by Director of Planning and Development Leann Graham, and presented by Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Greg Switenky regarding an offer to purchase a vacant commercial lot located in downtown Stettler.

“In the fall of 2015, the Town of Stettler engaged in the process of a court-ordered demolition of the property located at 5013-50 Avenue,” stated Graham’s memo.

“Following the demolition, the town acquired the property by way of tax forfeiture in late 2016.

“In January 2017, the Town of Stettler council made a motion to proceed with the sale of 5013-50 Avenue by way of a notice of property for sale by sealed bid, in accordance with the Municipal Government Act (MGA).

“Administration advertised the land for sale and received no submissions.

“In June of 2017, the Town received an offer to purchase that was accepted by town council, however the sale did not proceed.

“On Nov. 7, 2020, an email offer to purchase was submitted by Sam Sharp in the amount of $300.

“Section 425 (1)(a) of the MGA allows for a municipality to dispose of a parcel of land by selling it at a price that is as close as reasonably possible to the market value of the parcel.

“Section 1 (1)(n) of the MGA defines ‘market value’ as the amount that a property, as defined in section 284(1)(r), might be expected to realize if it is sold on the open market by a willing seller to a willing buyer.”

Graham stated in her report that the lot’s size is 5,040 square feet, is zoned C1 commercial central and The Town of Stettler 2020 assessed value of the property is $70,230.

Switenky stated the vacant lot is across the street from the movie theatre.

The CAO noted the town has not heard a lot of interest in this vacant lot although the $300 bid didn’t even cover demolition costs dating back to 2015.

Graham stated since the offer was so far below the assessed value she recommended turning it down, “...and refer the property to the Economic Development subcommittee for consideration and an action plan.”

Coun. Wayne Smith asked why the offer, which was so low, was even brought to council.

“It’s almost an insult,” said Smith.

Switenky answered the bid was brought forward in the interest of transparency.

Coun. Al Campbell was also outspoken on the bid.

“That’s embarrassing,” said Campbell.

“How dumb does this guy think we are?”

Mayor Sean Nolls mused that perhaps there are communities where that’s the going rate for commercial lots.

Coun. Malcolm Fischer stated it might be possible to consider such a bid if the purchaser had impressive development plans.

Coun. Scott Pfeiffer pointed out, though, that accepting an offer so far below assessed value would probably negatively affect surrounding property values.

Councillors unanimously approved Graham’s recommendation.

Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review