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County's ag land lease policies changing

Mountain View County council making changes following release of responses to public survey regarding Policy No. 6302 Agricultural Lease of county-owned property

MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY – Following the release of responses to a recent public survey regarding Policy No. 6302 Agricultural Lease of Mountain View County (MVC) owned property, council has instructed that several changes be made to the policy and related procedure.

The changes came by way of motions at a recent regularly scheduled council meeting, held in person and online.

One motion reads: “That council request administration modify policy and procedures 6302 to make it a five-year lease period with no automatic renewal, and the leases be brought forward for tender.”

A second motion reads: “That council request tendering of upcoming expired leases be one year in advance of that expiration.”

A third motion reads: “That council direct administration upon evaluation of tender received for land leases under policy 6302 that priority be given to residents of Mountain View County and residents of its urban municipalities.” 

The survey was conducted through communication channels and in the annual tax mailing after council approved the survey questions in March.

The engagement process was recently completed with the results presented to council and made public.

“Council had requested that a public participation campaign be undertaken to acquire feedback from the public around existing land lease practices,” said Chris Atchison, director of legislative services.

The survey posed a number of questions regarding the policy and also encouraged written comment.

To the question: “Is the current three-year period acceptable?” 67 of 102 respondents said yes.

Eighty per cent of those respondents said the lease period should be greater than three years.

To the question: “In your opinion should there be an allowance for an automatic lease renewal for an additional term under the same condition?” 54 of 97 respondents said yes.

To the question: “In your opinion, should grazing and crop leases have different length of terms to allow greater predictability for crop producers?” 53 of 100 respondents said yes.

To the question: “In your opinion, should all land leases be publicly advertised at the conclusion of the lease term?” 63 of 99 respondents said yes.

To the question: “If so, should existing (lease holders) receive any preference or priority evaluating the submissions resulting from the procurement opportunity?” 43 of 61 respondents said yes.

To the question: “In your opinion, should the highest offer be automatically accepted?” 85 of 95 respondents said no.

To the question: “If not, what should be evaluated higher?” 73 of 84 respondents said proposed land management practices while 11 of 84 respondent said submission bid.

The survey also included a section where respondents could make written comments to the question: “Are there other considerations that should be taken into account?” In all, 53 written responses were submitted, including the following:

• Existing lessee’s should receive consideration when evaluating the submissions resulting from that procurement opportunity, but not preference.

• We find the lease works well as it is now, but term should be longer, example five years, would make for better planning for crop and livestock needs.

• Road allowance leases should not be allowed where neighbours rely on the road for access to their lands.

• I think it is fair to let everyone know when a term is up for renewal, but also believe that if a higher bid is placed it should be brought to the current lessee, if they can match it it should still be first right of refusal.

• Strict guidelines for maintenance of lease should be in place with termination of the lease and/or disqualification from future lease submissions if the lease is not maintained adequately.

In all, 39 written responses were received to the question: “Do you have another comment or feedback that you would like to share with us regarding agricultural leases of Mountain View owned property?”, with responses including the following:

• Why does the county own so much land that is to be leased? Why not sell the property that can be easily sold and farmed?

• Why is MVC in the business of owning agriculture land that has no gravel deposits? This ownership of ag land is in direct competition with our ag producers.

• The lessee should not be allowed to monopolize leases on county lands. All ratepayers should have equal opportunity to apply and her successful if they meet the criteria.

• I have had nothing but a great experience with the existing program.

Council carried a motion accepting the survey results as information. The complete survey results are available for viewing on the county’s website.

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