Original Published on Aug 18, 2022 at 17:00

By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The question of whether a Bashaw resident and business owner had permission to begin construction of a fence which encroaches on public property will return to a future council meeting. 

The resident made an angry presentation to Bashaw town council at their regular meeting Aug. 8.

Town Chief Administrative officer (CAO) Theresa Fuller requested Carlos Siguenza, a residential property owner, be added to the agenda as a delegation, who wanted to talk to council about two separate issues, an encroachment and video lottery terminals. (VLTs, see related story).

Although there was no documentation in the agenda package regarding Siguenza’s issue, it quickly became clear the encroachment issue involved a fence Siguenza began building that is now sitting on public property; the question of whether Siguenza had the town’s permission was a matter of debate.

Siguenza began by stating he’s always taken care of that corner anyways located near his property at 5135 52nd Ave. and would be willing to buy the property in question.

The public property in question is an easement that may be used for a sidewalk, utilities or other infrastructure in the future.

Mayor Rob McDonald responded he had a problem with the fence being built before Siguenza asked for permission. Siguenza stated he got the okay to build from CAO Fuller.

Coun. Bryan Gust asked for clarification on who gave Siguenza permission to build the fence. Siguenza responded the town foreman Patrick Taylor told him he’d speak to Fuller about the fence.

CAO Fuller stated she had a request from Siguenza to locate a property line, but town staff couldn’t locate any diagram in their files showing a property line in the location. 

Fuller then stated Siguenza asked the town to check out the location in question for a property line but the CAO pointed out the Town of Bashaw is not responsible for locating property lines when property owners develop; Fuller stated Siguenza was told to hire a surveyor to prepare a real property report.

Siguenza responded the public works foreman gave him the okay to build the fence.

Public Works Foreman Taylor was at the council meeting and disputed Siguenza’s claim, instead Taylor noted he told Siguenza the property owner would have to get town council’s permission. 

However, Siguenza responded, “That’s a lie.” Public Works Foreman Taylor quickly responded, “That’s not a lie.”

Mayor McDonald stated that he also spoke to Siguenza and the mayor was under the impression the property owner knew there was a process to follow before the fence could be built; however, the fence was constructed after Siguenza met with the mayor anyway.

During discussion Siguenza stated he sent an important email on July 4, but town staff and councillors responded they only had emails from the property owner dated July 21, 25 and 27, including one town letter that said the fence request couldn’t be granted at that time. 

Siguenza responded both Fuller and Taylor gave him permission before July 21 to build the fence but clarified it was verbal permission that wasn’t in writing.

Mayor McDonald asked if a real property report was used to build the fence, which Siguenza stated no, but he requested the town foreman’s help finding the property boundary as the town staff must know where the boundary is.

McDonald stated the rules for building a fence are very clear, the town has never had a problem like this before and McDonald has never seen the CAO give verbal permission for something like this without it also being in writing. 

The mayor also stated when property owner’s build something it’s their responsibility to ensure they don’t encroach, not the town’s. 

“I feel that’s been made very clear to you,” said McDonald.

Tempers flared several times during the meeting. After one such outburst, Mayor McDonald asked Siguenza, “Why can’t you keep your cool?”

Siguenza answered, “Why can’t I keep my cool? Because of lies like this.” 

McDonald then added, “When you follow the rules there are no problems.”

Upon further discussion councillors agreed, since the item was added to the agenda late, they would not make a decision on the encroaching fence and instead discuss it again at a future meeting.

This item reprinted with permission from East Central Alberta Review, Coronation, Alberta