Are You Done Yet? Compensation for Impacts of Public Works in Alberta

by Bennett Jones LLP
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During the recent resurfacing of Bow Trail there was a message posted on a pylon sign by an adjacent business owner that read “Bow Trail is not Rome. Please Complete” (see “Road Construction Delays Cause Headaches for Drivers, Businesses” on Global News). The business owners were obviously hopeful that the work would be concluded quickly so as to minimize the effect on their business.

Municipalities must have the ability to complete necessary public works. However, ongoing infrastructure improvements in municipalities across the province inevitably impact adjacent homes and business owners. These adjacent landowners sometimes go uncompensated where they are not fully informed of their rights to compensation if such public works result in a permanent reduction in property value.

Recent public discussion in respect of infrastructure projects in Calgary appeared to have left the false impression that landowners are only entitled to nominal compensation or no compensation at all in respect of the impact on their land by virtue of the municipality completing its public works. For example, in response to landowner concerns regarding the current construction activities on 14th Street SW in Calgary, the City of Calgary has commented that it “does not have a practice of ‘compensating businesses directly’” (see “Calgary Won’t ‘Directly’ Compensate Businesses for Lost Revenue During Road Construction” on the Metro News website) and that “it has not made a payment to a business for construction issues alone in the past” (see “No Compensation for Businesses During 14th Street Construction, Says City” on the CBC News website).

While the Municipal Government Act does not provide relief for temporary business losses suffered during construction, the comments cited above should not be read to mean that landowners are not entitled to any compensation for impacts arising from the construction of public works or structures in Alberta. To the contrary, section 534 of the MGA creates a clear entitlement to compensation for adjacent landowners for permanent reductions in the value of their land as the result of certain public works or structures.

In order to seek compensation, affected landowners must file a claim with the municipality within 60 days of notice of completion of the public work or structure having been published in the newspaper. Seeking compensation for reduction in property value as the result of a public work can be a complex process requiring legal advice and the assistance of expert appraisers. Landowners that rely on the position of a given municipality or government may not successfully realize their full entitlement to compensation under the Municipal Government Act. The representation of experienced counsel enables landowners to navigate the statutory and administrative framework effectively and realize compensation owed in respect of loss of value to their property as the result of a public work.

We can all agree that there is a requirement for municipalities to discharge its obligations in respect to maintaining, repairing and constructing public works. However if you are affected by such public works, seek professional advice to determine whether compensation is available.

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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