Administrative law – Municipalities – Utility services – Judicial review – Compliance with legislation – Remedies – Mandamus
Landrex Developers Inc. v. St. Albert (City),  A.J. No. 1116, Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, October 8, 2004, Greckol J.
The Applicants brought an application for an order in the nature of mandamus to compel the City of St. Albert (the “City”) to provide utility services to a proposed development located in a county adjacent to the City. The issue was whether the City had a statutory duty to provide utility services to a parcel of land where such lands were adjacent to lands already serviced, whether or not the parcel for which services were sought was within the City’s boundaries.
Section 34(1) of the Municipal Government Act, R.S.A. 2000, c. M-26, stated that:
if the system or works of a municipal public utility that provide a municipal utility are adjacent to a parcel of land, the municipality must, when it is able to do so and subject to any terms, costs or charges established by council, provide the municipal utility service to the parcel on the request of the occupant of the parcel.
The court noted that the first condition that the Applicants must meet to demonstrate entitlement to an order of mandamus was to establish that there was a public duty to act and that this duty was owed to them. To meet this condition, the Applicants had to show that the duty on a municipality to provide the municipal utility service applied to the parcels of land for which they requested the services. In considering section 34(1) of the Municipal Government Act, the court concluded that the statutory duty to provide utilities that was imposed by the municipalities by that section did not extend beyond the boundaries of the municipality. The court held that it would be inimical to the “community-based approach” mandated by the Municipal Government Act if developers building subdivisions in one municipality could access the utility services of a neighbouring municipality without being subject to the urban planning vision of the democratically elected council of that municipality. Such an interpretation would not be consonant with the purposes and vision of the Municipal Government Act. Other parts of the Act also demonstrated that the obligations on the municipality set out in the Act were limited in geographic scope. The court concluded that the purpose and effect of section 34(1) of the Act in the context of this particular case was to require that municipalities supply services to parcels of land within their own boundaries where the statutory preconditions necessary to engage the duty were met. Public policy considerations also suggested that the section 34(1) duty on a municipality was limited to requiring the provision of utility services to parcels of land within its geographic boundaries. The court therefore held that the City did not have a statutory duty under section 34(1) of the Act to supply utility services to parcels of lands beyond its municipal boundaries. As a result, the application for an order in the nature of mandamus was dismissed.
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