Johnson estates did not terminate land deal, wants answers from town

Reply to “Negotiations between town and Johnson Estates now terminated”

Dear Editor,

Reply to “Negotiations between town and Johnson Estates now terminated”

Since the above article appeared in the Rimbey Review on February 4 I have been approached by several Rimbey citizens about why Johnson Estates is terminating negotiations with the Town of Rimbey. I want Rimbey ratepayers to know that Johnson Estates did not terminate negotiations. The Town of Rimbey unilaterally and abruptly terminated negotiations with Johnson Estates. Further, my daughter and I attended the January 26 Town council meeting and asked the Town of Rimbey to come back to the bargaining table and the Town of Rimbey refused our request

Johnson Estates was approached by the Rimoka Housing Foundation in the summer of 2011. We walked the lands west of the Community Centre with the Rimoka Housing Foundation representative and showed him our Area Concept Plan for development of the lands. We were ultimately advised that Rimoka Housing Foundation was interested in a bare parcel of land that would be purchased by the Ponoka County and serviced by the Town of Rimbey. The Rimoka Housing Foundation would apply to the Alberta Government for funds for a senior housing complex and would be responsible construction of the building. Johnson Estates offered, in a letter dated August 28, 2011, to look into the costs of servicing the lot and provide a serviced lot price but this offer was very clearly declined as the town was going to be servicing the lot. The location of the lot was chosen by the Rimoka Housing Foundation representative.

Based on the representations made to Johnson Estates by Rimoka Housing Foundation, the Ponoka County, and the Town of Rimbey, Johnson Estates proceeded to have engineers design an eight to 10-acre parcel in the location requested. In designing the lot, the storm water management and utility concepts had to be redesigned to work with the new lot. Further Johnson Estates had to substantially revise the area concept plan. All of this cost Johnson Estates approximately $26,000.00 in engineering fees plus took months of labour to complete.

A land sale agreement was signed with the Ponoka County in October, 2013. During that same time period Johnson Estates was working on a development agreement with the Town of Rimbey regarding the servicing of the lot. It became apparent when the servicing requirements were being put into writing by lawyers that the Town of Rimbey did not have a clear understanding of how they were going to service the lot. The Town of Rimbey only put their minds to a sanitary line and water line.

There was no plan regarding which direction the lot would be serviced from or regarding who was building. paving or curbing the road, or putting in shallow utilities. I am unsure as to why any of these servicing requirements came as a surprise to the Town of Rimbey as the land location and pipes have not changed since the commencement of this project in 2011. However, despite the lack of planning and communication by the Town of Rimbey regarding servicing, Johnson Estates, Ponoka Country, and Rimoka Housing Foundation continued negotiations regarding servicing and all parties, with the exception of the Town of Rimbey, agreed to make additional contributions to the servicing that were not part of the original arrangement. Johnson Estates, the Ponoka County, and Rimoka Housing Foundation agreed to contribute approximately $640,000 towards this project and the town’s infrastructure.

Despite significant contributions, on January 13 the Town of Rimbey made a motion that they were terminating negotiations with Johnson Estates. Johnson Estates received notice of this motion in a letter that basically advised that negotiations with Johnson Estates are terminated due to “unresolved issues” were we were advised in a letter dated January 21 written by Tony Goode that “you are well aware of the unresolved issues”. Further, when Johnson Estates requested to know what conditions the Town of Rimbey would unilaterally impose if an application for subdivision was made in attempt to complete the land deal Tony Goode advised that “the only way to be certain as to the conditions that would be imposed would be to seek formal subdivision approval.”

As the Town has refused to provide a list of conditions on an informal basis and given our lack of trust in the current council and its administration we cannot put forward a subdivision application. For all we know, the Town of Rimbey will require us to fully service a lot that we sold at bare parcel land prices.

Further, since the new mayor Rick Pankiw and council were elected, there seems, in my opinion, to be a deliberate attempt to derail the purchase of land from Johnson Estates.

We were informed by Ponoka County CAO, Charlie Cutforth, at a Nov. 29 meeting the Town of Rimbey was offered other lands, south of Hwy. 53, within two weeks of Ponoka County and Johnson Estates signing the land sale agreement in October.

These lands were looked at back in 2011 and at that time the owners wanted $800,000 so the lands were not considered.

What motivated these landowners to come forward with a new proposal at a lower price?

There was never any indication in the newspaper that negotiations with Johnson Estates were doing anything but moving forward.

And if the Town of Rimbey was negotiating in good faith with Johnson Estates why did they accept any information for another parcel of land?

Further, once they chose to receive the proposal should they not have disclosed this information to Johnson Estates?

The town had at least four opportunities in face-to-face meetings with Johnson Estates to be open about receiving the proposal.

Instead we were advised of the proposal by Ponoka County.

In fact, the Town of Rimbey wrote an email to Johnson Estates in Nov. 2013 advising that if we did not have an agreement by Nov. 29, the town would be advising the Ponoka County to look at other land options.

My daughter, Stacey Johnson, went to the town office to advise the town that she thought the threat to look t other land options was inappropriate as we were not stalling negotiations.

Even during that discussion the town did not advise that they had already looked at another land options and had a proposal in their possession.

Therefore, in my opinion, the town did not just omit to tell Johnson Estates about the other proposal, they were dishonest about it.

In summary, I believe the conduct of council in this matter is inappropriate.

I thin k that council is giving up an idea location for such a project and I do not think anyone is looking at the big picture for development of infrastructure in Rimbey. This is a multi-million dollar building that will be in Rimbey for years to come.

Should short term savings, if there are any, cause location and longterm benefits, such as completion of the town water system, to be ignored?

Alvin Johnson