Homeowners in Sturgeon County are demanding buyouts after industrial expansion flops.
"They're asking for something only industry can give them," said councillor and Heartland farmer, Karen Shaw.
Homeowners want Sturgeon County to buy their agricultural land, now zoned for industrial in the Heartland for prices that industry pays.
For the county, the problem is two fold.
"The [Municipal Government Act] only allows municipalities to purchase properties at market value and for municipal purposes," explained Shaw.
To tempt landowners, industrial players often offer more than what market value for the land is and that's far beyond the county's budget.
"To me, it's very simple: If I want industrial prices, we have to wait until industry comes and purchases us."
It's estimated buying out the 18 families that want the buyout would cost $50 to $60 million.
"If I could wave a wand and industry comes in and buys all these residences, great!"
Landowners originally anticipated being bought out by industrial players. 36 have been bought out over the years, but after the Great Recession, activity slowed as commodity prices plummeted. Sturgeon's new Northwest Refinery will bump revenue by 40 per cent for the county, but production is anticipated to be half of what was originally projected due to low prices and low demand.
Shaw added that even if there is a Made-In-Sturgeon solution, it will still only offer market value. That value would classify the land as a farm and buy it for the going price of an equivalent farm. The solution would only offer enough to replace what is on the land in another location.
The county wants to work with residents. They're in the midst of installing signal lights in numerous locations as well as mass transportation to ease congestion. They're also applying calcium to gravel roads in the Heartland and beyond to help control dust from traffic.
Mayor Tom Flynn said a task force will be set up to work with residents to come up with a solution.