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Landowners to get more options in Alta. expropriations

A new batch of rulemaking is expected to give Alberta landowners such as farmers more say over the timing when their land has to be expropriated for "major infrastructure projects."

The provincial government on Monday introduced amendments to its Land Assembly Project Area Act — which by itself was meant to map out a clear process for property owners when government needs to buy private land for long-term, large-scale transportation projects, such as ring roads or water reservoirs.

The amendments will give landowners "the option to trigger expropriation" of the land in question, and the option to hold off on concluding a sale to the province until the infrastructure project in question actually begins, the province said.

Landowners would also gain the option to sell said land to the province, then lease it back until the infrastructure project in question begins. Designated properties, if not yet sold to the province, can also be sold to third parties or willed to surviving family members.

"These changes give more power to landowners," provincial Infrastructure Minister Jeff Johnson said in a release Monday. "We’ve heard concerns from Albertans about the law as it currently stands, and these amendments address those concerns."

The Land Assembly Project Area Act, when originally introduced in 2009, came under fire from rural landowners and various ag and environmental groups almost immediately.

Wild Rose Agricultural Producers, for one, expressed concerns about compensation for land use, as well as the types of restrictions on what landowners could do on their property once it’s designated for a major infrastructure project, and the possibility of penalties to enforce such restrictions.

No new powers

The legislation "does not give government any new powers," the province reiterated Monday. "Government has always been able to plan long-term transportation projects and buy land for them. The law gives landowners more protection and places greater obligations on government."

When the province needs to take up private land, "property owners deserve to be consulted with, fully compensated, and have full access to the courts," Johnson said. "These changes will ensure that they do."

The amendments to the Act are also expected to include a "clearer explanation" of the types of major transportation or water projects the law was meant to cover — and to clarify that the Act "cannot be used for stand-alone utility or pipeline projects."

Monday’s proposed amendments will also make clear and reiterate that the Land Assembly Project Area Act will not override the rights available to landowners under the province’s Expropriation Act, the province said.

The amendments are also expected to "remove any suggestion that an Albertan could receive a jail sentence for violating the Act," the province said.

Related story:

Alta. tables process to gather land for projects, March 3, 2009


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