A Calgary man is asking the province to buy land after 12 years of ordeal over what he can build
A Calgary man who owns seven acres of land in nearby Chestermere earmarked for future freeway widening says he’s held on to it for 12 years and now wants it closed.
Jarnail Sihota says he found he couldn’t develop the property, which used to house a water park, when he applied to build a hotel and conference center in 2011.
In the early 1990s he bought land near the intersection of Highway 1 and Chestermere Boulevard from a bank. His intention was to develop it as an investment – first as an RV park and then as a hotel site.
After applying in 2011, he was told by the provincial government that the land might be needed in the future for a highway project that was outlined in a functional planning study. He says the application was denied and the zoning on his property was changed.
That left Sihota and its financial future in limbo, with no solution in sight and no offer to buy the land. He says it’s been 12 years since that application.
“If they don’t have a project for the next 20 to 30 years, I’m done. I’m 70 now. I was 58 when I planned. It’s sad and a very wrong thing to do,” Sihota said.
“They should buy it because it’s mine and they want to build a highway,” he said. “And the land cannot be sold because it has a caveat that the government needs it.”
CBC News contacted Alberta Transportation for an interview Monday and again Tuesday, but received no response. The City of Chestermere was also contacted for comment but did not respond prior to publication.
Sihota says he’s paid property taxes that have quintupled and he’s already made significant losses on his investment.
Because of the restriction on development, Sihota says it’s unlikely anyone else would want to buy the land.
He says the original estimated cost of building a hotel and conference center was around $40 million, which is now likely much more expensive and financially unattainable.
“And if I have to find a similar place somewhere else, I don’t think I can find that for a million dollars an acre,” he said.
Sihota calls the event a de facto expropriation of his country.
“They already did it. They took it, but they just don’t want to pay for it,” Sihota said.
He says the province has bought other nearby parcels from landowners but will not do the same for his.
If he builds anything under the new zoning, he may have to tear it down and rehabilitate the land if the province calls for it. He says that’s enough to deter banks and lenders.
Sihota says he wrote a letter to the PM, several ministers, his MLA and the Mayor of Chestermere and that he has tried to resolve the issue in court.