Johnson Estates claims town used poor ethics in recent land deal

“It became very clear that there wasn't a clear servicing plan from the Town of Rimbey of what they were going to service.” Stacey Johnson

Failed development agreement negotiations with the Town of Rimbey have left a bitter taste in the mouth of Johnson Estates.

Despite that, however, the company remains hopeful for future joint endeavors with Ponoka County.

Stacey Johnson and her father Alvin of Johnson Estates feel they were let down by the Town of Rimbey as negotiations fell through on the matter of building a new seniors’ lodge planned by the town on land owned by the company.

Stacey Johnson says she isn’t angry the negotiations ultimately didn’t conclude positively but she feels the town acted in poor conduct throughout the procedure especially since the Johnson’s land wasn’t for sale at the time, they were approached by the Rimoka Housing Foundation board.

No representatives from the town were in attendance at the meeting with the county.

Acting town CAO Melissa Beebe said, “it’s development, it’s legal” and, due to the FIOP act no further details could be released.

It states in the Jan. 14 issue of the Rimbey Review members of the town met with senior residents and highlighted that the town’s main goal is to address the immediate need of a seniors’ lodge in town. “Our feelings remain the same,” said Beebe.

During the negotiation process, the Johnsons put out $26,000 of their own money to improve the land to be appropriate for the purpose of a seniors’ lodge – design and engineering costs. That money was repaid by Ponoka County. “And then we’re just kind of left by the Town of Rimbey saying ‘well, they had expenses too,’” said Stacey.

“I think throughout this deal (Reeve) Paul (McLauchlin) and (CAO) Charlie (Cutforth) handled themselves very ethically,” said Johnson.

During the Johnson’s negotiations with the Town of Rimbey another offer of land was put forth approximately two weeks after Ponoka County signed the land agreement.

Johnson says not only did the town consider the offer – which is now in negotiations for the same lodge – but they also didn’t disclose the offer to Johnson Estates. “That probably shouldn’t have been entertained because it takes your ability to negotiate in good faith,” she said.

In the beginning, negotiations stated Ponoka County would pay for the land, which they did, as well as perform a little dirt work, Rimoka would apply for grants and funding, and Rimbey was meant to the lot.

“It wasn’t really until we started to put them into legal documents where you start dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, it became very clear that there wasn’t a clear servicing plan from the Town of Rimbey of what they were going to service,” said Johnson.

“Then it became clear the Town of Rimbey was not necessarily servicing the lot, they were going to provide a water line and a sanitary line,” she added.

Stacey says in the last proposal given to Johnson Estates by the town indicated they weren’t even providing that much; they were funding a sanitary line and a portion of the water line. “They priced out themselves the cost of doing the water line . . . And it was about $130,000. In their last proposal to us, they were only willing to pay $86,000. So I’m not sure why they’d think that’s acceptable when they made a motion, they’ve made it very clear they were willing to put in a water line and a septic line.”

The water line was set to come from the north due to water pressure problems. The town’s main, 10-inch water line is an incomplete loop between two reservoirs. The section between the two has a balanced pressure but on the south end of the incomplete portion pressure drops. Alvin and Stacey were also upset that this new land that is now under negotiations is also situated along the same part of the line, and they don’t understand why the pressure doesn’t seem to be an issue now, as it was for them.

Johnson Estates countered the town’s offer on the water line and received a letter and a motion that the Town of Rimbey would no longer talk to them. “On January 13 that was it, we were cut off.”

Stacey also told council Johnson Estates also owns two other plots of land she feels would be more appropriate for a seniors’ lodge instead of the newest offer to council. However, she never brought them forward because she was led to believe the land Rimoka approached them for was what was desired by the town.

Now she feels it wasn’t the disagreements in money matters that ended negotiations between Johnson Estates and the Town of Rimbey, it was the amount of details, such as water, sewage and pavement, that needed attending with the Johnson’s land and the intrusion of a second offer.

Johnson Estates owns land on the north end of town where there would be no water pressure issues, but a short road would need to be constructed. Another plot is located more south and it already has pavement and a service line.

Stacey feels these would be better than the offer made to town during Johnson’s agreements. Both locations, as well as the one originally up for negotiation, are within close proximity to the hospital, Peter Lougheed Community Centre, Pas Ka Poo Park, the drop in centre. The three locations are also on the same side of Highway 53 as these amenities.