M.D. of Lesser Slave River council spent two sessions at its July 19 meeting wrangling over the question of whether to allow property owners to put up gates on undeveloped M.D. road allowances, and to be able to lock them. It’s fair to say views differed, but in the course of it a couple of the councillors changed their position.

When the dust settled, a majority seemed in favour of allowing gates in certain situations, but not locked ones. And with signs, informing interested parties who to phone for more information about access.

The M.D. regularly receives requests to occupy, or otherwise use, undeveloped road allowances. Often it will be from a farmer who owns land on both sides of the right of way, and wishes his cattle to be able to move back and forth. There are apparently many such instances where road allowances are being used for private purposes, and access to the public is restricted or cut off altogether. There have been requests for the M.D. to close these road allowances and sell the land to the adjacent property owner.

The M.D. prefers to have people enter into a license of occupation (LOC) agreement, rather than entertain the process of road closure and land sale. For one thing, it can block access to Crown land for future development.

The proposal for council from M.D. admin. was to provide incentive for the LOC option, by allowing locked gates, with signs indicating who to call for access.

“Landowners want to control access to their property,” said CAO Barry Kolenosky. “For various reasons, including vandalism and theft.”

Councillor Brad Pearson was dead against it. He’s on the record, again and again, as opposing road closures of any kind – including ones that are undeveloped. His position: if landowners want to control access, they should fence their own land and put in gates.

Pearson predicted that signs on a locked gate would solve nothing, and produce endless headaches for M.D. staff.

“I’m totally against shutting down right of ways,” he said.

Councillor Darren Fulmore took a contrary position.

“I think this is a good compromise,” he said, pointing out it’s similar to what the government does on grazing leases, where hunters and others can have access.

“We need to find a way to help landowners,” said councillor Norm Seatter.

Reeve Murray Kerik said he’s on the fence.

“I could live with a gate, but not with a lock,” he said.

Councillor Lana Spencer was ready to go ahead with a motion to allow an unlocked gate, with signs, but then noticed there was some discrepancy between the online and printed versions of the policy. The matter was tabled to later in the meeting.

When it came back, council heard there are “hundreds” of these types of situations in the M.D.

“But you don’t hear about them unless they’re locked,” said Kerik. “That’s where the problems start.”

Spencer’s motion was to have the policy brought back with amendments – those being that gates can be put over undeveloped M.D. road allowances, unlocked, and with signs.

by Joe McWilliams

This item copyrighted by   AlbertaChat.com / Lakeside Leaader   Slave Lake, Alberta

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