The mayor’s refusal to speak out about plans for the location of a proposed new seniors lodge has landed him in loads of hot water, but the Ponoka county reeve says he was well within his rights to remain mum on the subject.
At a public hearing held last week, Mayor Rick Pankiw said he did not know what type of facility was to go on a parcel of land up for rezoning.
Pankiw admits he did know what the plans were, but was not legally able to disclose that information because of stipulations laid out in the municipal government act.
“In the heat of the moment I chose my words wrong,” said Pankiw later. We as a town did know what was going on, but according to the MGA we could not disclose that information.”
County Reeve Paul McLaughlin confirmed Pankiw’s statement.
“Everybody’s doing everything right, but it is being misinterpreted as wrong,” he said.
McLaughlin said there are two processes in place.
“It is quite confusing. The town is dealing with the re-zoning and subdivision process. The town is doing their due diligence and acting accordingly.
Stan Cummings also defended council.
The town was entirely within their rights to withhold that information,” he said.
McLaughlin said the county has made an offer to purchase land from developer Stan Cummings for $310,000. The land is to be used by Rimoka Housing to build a seniors’ lodge.
“The town has nothing to do with it (the purchase),” he said.
“Negotiations on the Johnson’s property have regretfully ceased and we are moving forward,” he said, noting that negotiations with Stan Cummings began about two weeks after the Johnson Estates deal was closed.
McLaughlin said he sees the land purchase as a positive, noting some people are opposed to the proposed lodge being built south of Highway 53.
“That is not a deal breaker,” he said. “And there will be positives and negatives no matter where you put it. All we’re (the county) is trying to do is purchase a piece of land, gift it to Rimoka and have the town prosper from it.”
Council has given second reading to the rezoning of the 8.4 acres now zoned low density housing to IPU (institutional public use). In order for the land deal to move ahead, the parcel needs to be rezoned. Land zoned IPU may be used for such facilities as schools, churches, libraries, group homes, hospitals, cemeteries, playgrounds, golf courses, sporting facilities and storm water detention areas.
Services to the land earmarked for the seniors’ facility are accessible through the property, but will need to be tied in.
Council will address the issue of third reading at its April 14 meeting.