The reeve for the Rural Municipality of Garden River says the City of Prince Albert has never paid taxes on land near the La Colle Falls dam site.
Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne said the city was looking at selling the land to avoid paying taxes on it following an executive committee meeting in Monday. However, Garden River reeve Ryan Scragg said that RM records show the city has never paid taxes on the land because it is only assessed at around $200 in value.
“It’s extremely low,” Scragg said during an interview on Wednesday. “I’ve never seen a piece of land assessed that low in the RM.”
Scragg said the land is reassessed every three to four years and it’s never been flagged for an increase. He said it’s low on the flood plain, with dense brush that’s unsuitable for cattle.
Craig Guidinger, the planning and development director for the City of Prince Albert, confirmed in an email sent on Thursday that the city is exempt from paying taxes on the property.
The RM wants to use the land to survey a road leading to a proposed day park on the north side of the North Saskatchewan River.
“At bare minimum we need a roadway through it,” Scragg said. “When we started looking at it, we saw that the city didn’t pay taxes on it (and) that it’s not really appropriate for development.”
“We didn’t see that it had any resale value, so we thought we might as well approach the city and see if they were interested in just leasing the land in perpetuity, or us purchasing it for a low, fair price,” he added.
The project to build a day park across from the La Colle Falls dam site is still in the early stages. Scragg said they’ve been discussing it since last year, but the RM council hasn’t even approved a budget for the project.
They’re hoping to create a small recreational space with parking for around half-a-dozen vehicles that would allow visitors to safely view an interesting historical site.
Scragg said the city has held the land for more than 100 years without developing it. He’s hopeful they’ll allow someone else to use it rather than let it remain as it is.
“At the end of the day, it’s public land being kept in public hands,” he said.
Scragg added that he’s read a lot of comments on social media from Prince Albert residents who want the city to extract as much value as they can out of the property. He hopes they’ll see a new day park as something that will provide value for all local residents.
“We’re looking at doing something with it that I think will benefit not just the RM of Garden River but anybody in the region who has an interest in doing some sort of day park type activities,” he said. “It’s a really cool untouched little area that has a lot of historical significance.”