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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald (Newspaper) - August 6, 1974, Lethbridge, Alberta Tuesday, August 6, 1974 - THE LETHBRIDGE HERALD - 3 We feel Marathon's land application is a CP Rail move to unload valuable assets in case the railway is nationalized." - MAYOR A. F. BLAKIE of Coaldale ,>In a great many Prairie towns it's the same. ""Railway tracits form a narrow corridor dividing a cluster of buildings and houses. Along one side of the tracks sit a string of grain elevators and the station house. The growth or decline of the town hasn't had much effect on that central corridor, except to add or subtract a grain elevator or two. , Growth has pushed the town's extremities further from the tracks. Decline has seen them shrink. ' The corridor itself has pretty much been taken for granted. It has made life' awkward. Any great slice down the middle of anything would be awkward. But, after all, it is the railroad and where would the town be without the railroad. Now, however, many town officials are seeing that great slice in a different light. The railroad says it doesn't need it all. It needs ionly a few feet on either side of the tracks. Actually it said this in 1967 but few people got too worked lip when the land was transferred to CP Rail's subsidiary, Marathon Realty. Now they are getting plenty worked up. After years of letting this land in the cores of Southern Alberta communities sit, Marathon has decided it wants to make some money on it. It wants to subdivide its land in 12 rural municipalities into workable, saleable parcels. Marathon says it has already subdivided and developed in some of the 60 centres in which it receiv- . ed rail land in 1967. Developments in Calgary, Lethbridge (Centre Village Shopping Mall), Camrose and Ponoka have had considerable effect on these four centres. All are modern shopping centre -office complexes. Marathon applied to the Oldman River Regional Planning -Commission for permission to subdivide in the South. But Marathon's 12 applications coming in a bunch and the thought of glamorous Palliser Square in Calgary - built on land transferred to Marathon from CP Rail in 1967 - was too much for represen- tatives of many of the municipalities "that sit on the planning commission. It isn't right, they say. They feel since the land transferred from CP to Marathon was originally given to the railroad back in 1881 as part of the deal to build Canada's first transcontinental railroad, it should be used for railroad purposes. If it wasn't to be used for railroad purposes then it should revert back to the federal government, they say. After that, they wouldn't object one bit if the government could see fit to give the land to the communities themselves. A shopping centre on this community land? A handful of planning commission representatives told The Herald they hadn't thought much about that. The prin-;iple is the important .hing. But yes, a shopping ;entre might be nice. Good or the town. Most of the Marathon applications in the South have been refused and were subsequently appealed by Marathon at recent hearings of the Provincial Planning Board, the final planning authority in the province." Those that were approved were subject to so many conditions that they too are likely to be appealed, says Lawrence Smith, ORRPC executive director. But wait, the planners caution. Let's not confuse the political ownership hassle with these planning decisions. These applications were decided on "sound planning considerations" based on Alberta Planning Act regulations and common sense. Whether or not Marathon should be made to give the land back to the Crown has nothing to do with it, Mr. Smith insists. It's not quite that tidy, however. The commission's executive recommended at a May 2, 1974 meeting that the government should take the land back. It felt simply that the land was given to Canadian Pacific expressly for railway purposes and since Marathon was now going to use the land for something else, the land should be taken back. That recommendation was immediately pooh - poohed by Taber representative D. M. Turin who suggested it would make the commission a "laughing stock". The commission had no jurisdiction to tell Canadian Pacific what to do with the land, even if it was a gift from the government, he said. That's when the planning ' commission decided to follow "sound planning considerations." Mr. Smith told the meeting the commission should find sound planning reasons to turn down most of the subdivision applications. Another planner, Ted Nicholson, went so far as to avow the commission should "plumb the depths" of the provincial planning act to find Mr. Smith says the actual planning decisions were influenced by the location of the Marathon land and its shape. Because it is, in 10 of the 12 applications, in the middle of a community, the face of the community would be changed by future development. The property is long and narrow, hugging the tracks that these communities sprung up around at the turn of the century. Long, narrow shapes bring difficult access problems. Town by town, the situation looks like this: Claresholm - Marathon's application to divide 19 acres into 16 parcels was refused, basically because of the poor access proposed, Mr. By TERRY McDONALD Herald Staff Writer good planning reasons for . turning Marathon down. Mr. Smith says in retrospect: "I know that's the way it looks now but it wasn't really that way." He maintains the commission's professional staff made its original recommendations to the executive based on the provisions of the act. Those recommendations are nearly identical to the final "sound planning consideration" decision. The ownership debate was merely an "emotional" temporary diversion. At any rate, the commission emerged from that May 2 meeting with a two -pronged strategy, The commission itself would proceed to handle the Marathon applications based on the planning act while the representatives from the member municipalities would, independent from the official function of ttie commission, campaign as individuals to have the land turned back to the federal government. Smith says. The highway runs parallel to the property which complicates things. The land also faces a residential area and whatever is developed on the land is not likely to be compatible with nearby homes. Nanton - The commission approved Marathon's application to divide 10 acres into 10 parcels, but there were strings attached. Access allowances had to be upgraded and it was suggested that if Marathon would divide into fewer parcels the access difficulty would be relieved. Vulcan - Application to divide 19.8 acres into 14 parcels was approved with many conditions. Access was the big problem again. There were too many small parcels proposed, Mr. Smith says. Some of the land would be suited for another access to the town since it lies between the\ town's business section and the highway. Coaldale - Application to divide 13.7 acres into 10 parcels was both approved ,-inH rf'ri:s(v| The proposals for north of the tracks were okay, but the southside proposals made for access problems which could be shored up by bigger, fewer parcels. The highway running alongside the southside property complicates things too. Milk River and Warqer - The situations in these communities located only 10 miles apart are nearly identical. Application to divide nine acres into eight parcels in Milk River was refused. So was the proposal to divide nine acres into seven areas in Warner. The highway runs very near both properties and accentuates access problems, the planners say. Cardston - Application, to divide 23.4 acres into 10 parcels was refused, mainly because of access problems. The Marathon proposals allow for access of a road inside the Blood Indian reserve but access must be on a. public road, says Mr. Smith. The shape of the property is tough to work with too. Picture Butte - If access problems are improved and a tree screen put in to buffer the property from a residential area, application to * divide 8.1 acres into five parcels here would be approved. Taber - Access again. It's poor enough to reject the Marathon application to divide land south of the railway tracks but not quite bad enough to justify rejecting the northside proposal. Marathon wants to divide 13.25 acres into nine parcels. Blairmore - This is perhaps the most complicated one. Marathon wants to divide land that constitutes only part of the original CPR land, Mr. Smith says. The rest apparently will sit as it is. But the planners want to know about the future of this other land before approving subdivision of the Marathon land. A much talked - about future highway bypassing the town complicates planning too. The Marathon land is less vital to the hub of two communities, but could compete with existing business areas. Fort Macleod - The Marathon land here is located about a half m.ile south of the main business section and application to divide 21 acres into seven parcels was approved subject to improvement of two access proposals. . Pincher Station - Located north of the Town of Pincher Creek on Highway 3 in the Municipal District of Pincher Creek, Marathon's application to divide eight acres into five parcels was approved with conditions. The size and shape could be improved with consolidation, and better access would result, Mr. Smith says. The campaign for the land reverting back to the Crown took the form of letters to federal Transport Minister Jean Marchand and Premier Peter Lougheed. Singed by just less than half the municipal representatives that sit on the regional commission, the letters said: "We, the undersigned, while we are the representatives of our respective communities and municipalities on the Oldman River Regional Planning Commission, would appreciate the � opportunity of expressing a personal concern about a matter that arose at a recent meeting of the commission. "The Oldman River Regional Planning Commission, as you may be aware, is one of seven such commissions in Alberta. Its area of responsibility, the Oldman River region, covers southwestern Alberta, an area of some 13,200 square miles, with a population of over 120,300 persons. "All muni.cipalities within this area, with the exception of a few small villages, are members of the commission. The governing body of the commission is comprised of representatives from the municipal councils in the region. The main functions of the ORRPC are subdivision approval, local planning and regional planning. "The commission has received applications from Marathon Realty Company for the subdivision of railway land and station grounds in some 14 corn- Continued Page 5 ;