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Unkempt property is responsibility of owner: Stettler County

·3 min read

Stettler County council turned down a request from a property owner who was sent a $1,200 bill after the municipality had to cut tall, unkempt grass.

Councillors made the decision at their July 14 regular meeting.

Tax and Assessment Clerk Sharon Larsen stated the county billed a property owner in Buffalo Sands Estates for cutting unkempt grass and the property owner, whose name was removed from documents, requested councillors waive those charges.

“On June 22, 2020 several unsightly property complaints were filed with Protective Services located at lots: 49, 51, 53 and 55 on Buffalo Lane in Buffalo Sands Estates,” stated Larsen.

Larsen stated county staff inspected the lots in question and they did have tall uncut grass which violated the Nuisance bylaw.

“The owner of the four lots in question belong to the same person residing in Calgary,” stated Larsen.

When the county contacted the property owner, noted Larsen, it was revealed the ratepayer was unable to clean up the lots due to health problems.

Larsen stated the county arranged to have the lots cleaned up Nov. 4, 2020 and sent the bill to the property owner, totalling $1,278.90.

The property owner was not very happy, as made clear in a letter provided to councillors.

“Unfortunately we have not been able to come to Buffalo Lake this year or last year because my husband was diagnosed with ALS,” stated the letter dated July 6 with names removed.

“We were distressed about my husband's illness and also about this issue.”

The property owner stated she spoke to someone at Buffalo Lake, “...and assured me she would take care of it for us. So we assumed the grass was cut. Now we get a bill for $1,200 to pay for cutting the grass which we feel is very unfair and extremely expensive and unjust.

“Please, we appeal to you to reverse the charges of $1,200. This is a huge sum of money for us that we cannot afford to pay as we are having to purchase expensive equipment for my husband.”

Coun. James Nibourg asked how much time the property owners had to arrange the grass cutting and Director of Municipal Services Andrew Brysiuk answered the county usually handles tall grass complaints fairly quickly.

However, he also noted the county contacted the property owner, the property owner refused to cut the grass and the enforcement order was approved four months later.

Nibourg stated property owners are responsible for maintaining their properties.

When asked if council waived the bill, who ends up paying it?, Nibourg answered that question by saying the rest of the county taxpayers.

Councillors defeated the property owner’s request by a 1 to 6 vote.

Taxes forgiven

Councillors granted tax forgiveness on a request from a resident who had a building destroyed by fire.

Council read a report filed by Larsen stating a property owner had a fire that destroyed a building and the owner subsequently asked that they not have the building on their tax bill.

“On April 15, 2021 the ratepayers had a fire on their property where they lost a large truck shop (8,200 sq. ft.),” stated Larsen’s report. “The ratepayer has asked if the county would consider a reduction in the taxes by prorating the value. As a result of the fire and insurance dealings they have lost their building, renters and sale of the property.”

A copy of the email requesting tax relief was included with all names removed, the only identification being tax roll 788401.

Larsen explained the property was properly assessed at the time the building was still in existence, and only council has the authority to forgive a tax bill.

Councillors unanimously approved forgiving $1,801.58 in tax revenue on the destroyed building from the unknown property owner’s tax roll.

“I think that’s fair,” said Coun. Nibourg.

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

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