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November 4th, 2015 ~ Vol. 85 No. 43
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Ranchland, Pass yet to discuss taxes
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
EZRA BLACK
Pass Herald Reporter
Hopefully this won’t end up like it did in "One Tin Soldier."

The 1960s Canadian anti-war song tells the story of a hidden treasure and two neighboring peoples: the peaceful Mountain People and the warlike Valley People. The Mountain People had a treasure buried under a stone. The Valley People, thinking it was gold, sent a message to the Mountain People asking for it.

The Mountain People replied that they were willing to share the treasure but that wasn’t enough for the Valley People who invaded the mountain and killed all the Mountain People in the process. The Valley People then moved the stone and found only a simple message: “Peace on Earth.”

Industrial tax sharing between the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass and the Municipal District (MD) of Ranchland involves a less rhetorical treasure.

While some of the infrastructure, including the rail load out facility for the proposed Grassy Mountain Coal Project would be located within the Pass, the actual mountaintop coal mine would fall within the MD of Ranchland.

At an open house on Oct. 29, Riversdale’s managing director Steve Mallyon said the MD of Ranchland would be entitled to about $950,000 per year in industrial taxation while the Pass would be entitled to $450,000, a little over half that amount.
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Mallyon said the MD of Ranchland could be willing to give the Pass some of the tax dollars from the proposed mine.

“We had some discussions with Ranchland as part of our consultation and there was some willingness on their part to enter into a revenue sharing agreement,” he said. “And that’s an acknowledgement of the fact that they are enjoying some benefit of the project without necessarily incurring all of the cost.”

Greg Brkich, Ranchland chief administrative officer (CAO), said his municipality has held no formal discussions with the Pass regarding Ranchland sharing their share of industrial taxes since the Pass tried to annex Grassy Mountain from Ranchland in 2013.

“One individual council member from my council might talk to one individual council member from their council about revenue sharing but I don’t consider that official,” he said.

In June 2013, six-months after Australia based Riversdale Resources Ltd. purchased 35,000-acres of coal properties and freehold land assets, including the Grassy Mountain Project, from Devon Energy and Consol Energy for a total of $49.5 million US, Crowsnest Pass’ then council sent a letter to Ranchland’s council to discuss annexing the site of the proposed mine.

The Pass wanted to annex all of land that lies to the south and west of the Oldman River, which would have resulted in the loss of one-third of the MD of Ranchland. Additionally, Crowsnest’s council proposed that Ranchland cover the costs of the annexation.

At first the Pass was talking about amalgamating with Ranchland. In the Crowsnest Dec. 18, 2012, agenda report on the annexation process, then CAO Myron Thompson stated that the community strategic action plan supported “an initiative of amalgamation of Crowsnest Pass and MD of Ranchland,” But Under further review, Crowsnest Pass wanted annexation rather than amalgamation, said the report.

A March 22, 2013 letter to Crowsnest Pass council in response to the annexation proposal stated Ranchland would have had to pay $200,000 per year for five years to Crowsnest Pass “to cover the cost of servicing the proposed annexation area prior to any new potential tax revenue being realized.”
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To pay for the pleasure of being annexed, the Pass proposed Ranchland raise its mill rate on linear and commercial properties, machinery and equipment.

“In other words, tax the Ranchland ratepayers to subsidize the [Pass],” said the letter.

Ranchland did not support the attempted takeover but it did support sharing tax revenue from the Grassy Mountain mine.

“If any proposed coal mining venture does proceed then, as the immediate service centre, not only will such economic development benefit the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass [MCP], but Ranchland would be open to discuss revenue sharing with neighbouring communities, including the MCP, ensure all benefit.”

The letter remains the only formal document that discusses tax sharing between the two municipalities, said Brkich.

The current council ended the annexation bid but Brkich still wonders what have been, “We’ll never know what the Municipal Government Board may have decided to do with that situation.”

“That was the whole joke you might say,” he said. “When we sat down with our lawyer, she thought it was hilarious. The only legitimate reason to annex is if you’re a growing community and you need more land to develop another subdivision and that was not the case.”

“It was obviously a tax grab attempt.”

Brkich said the incident would probably not sour any future negotiations between the two communities because the Pass’ former head administrator resigned in 2013 and none of the previous administrations’ councillors remain in office.

“These two council’s right now are on pretty good terms,” he said.
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November 4th ~ Vol. 85 No. 43
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