Expropriation is a process by which a government authority
(known as the "expropriating authority") acquires real
estate without the owner and leaseholder's consent for the
purpose of furthering a public interest. With increased federal
spending on infrastructure and LRT expansions underway in both
Edmonton and Calgary, cities in Alberta are engaging in significant
Each landowner and leaseholder that receives a Notice of
Intention to Expropriate from the expropriating authority (such as
a city) has rights under the Expropriation Act. They may
object to the expropriation itself on the grounds that the
expropriation is not fair, not sound, excessive or not reasonably
necessary in the achievement of the public good. An inquiry officer
is appointed to conduct a public hearing to determine if the
objection is valid or if the expropriation should proceed. If the
expropriation continues following an inquiry, then the
expropriating authority will serve a Notice of Expropriation on
owners and tenants faced with the forced taking of their interest
and will offer compensation in respect of the taking.
Should an owner or tenant wish to challenge the compensation
offered by the expropriating authority, the owner/tenant can
initiate proceedings before the Land Compensation Board to seek
losses caused by the expropriation, and even losses caused by the
notice of the forthcoming expropriation. Owners and tenants are
generally insulated from bearing legal costs as the Act
requires that reasonable legal fees be borne by the expropriating
authority in most cases. The typical types of compensation
available to an owner are:
Payment of the market value of the land;
Damages attributable to disturbance (the reasonable costs and
expenses arising from the expropriation);
Value to the owner of any element of special economic advantage
to the owner arising out of or incidental to the owner's
occupation of the land to the extent that no other provision is
made for its inclusion;
Damages for injurious affection, (when the use to which the
expropriated land is put adversely affects the value of the
remaining land, or when the dividing of lands affects the value of
the remaining lands);
Business losses until a business has relocated and operated for
6 months or a 3 year period has elapsed (first of);
Loss of good will of a business;
Relocation costs for primary residence owners; and
The recent decision of the Alberta Land Compensation Board in Celtic Homes
Inc. v Alberta (Transportation), confirms many of these
principles. In that decision, the Board addressed a scenario where
the Government of Alberta had taken some prime commercial land at
the intersection of Highway 2 and Cardiff Road. However, the shape
of the land was an "unsaleable strip" such that a true
market valuation was not possible. The Government attempted to
argue that the land should be valued by looking at the surrounding
land. The Board held that given the taken land was superior than
surrounding land with regard to location, visibility, and zoning,
it would be inappropriate to use surrounding land to value the
expropriated property. As a result, expert evidence about
comparable lands in the province was used to secure the land owner
a more favourable valuation.
While an appropriating authority may put forward a plausible
basis for valuing land based on neighbouring parcels, such
comparisons may not be the best means of determining value. This
case reminds those facing expropriation that it may be worth
challenging the valuation provided by an expropriating authority
– particularly in light of the fact that the authority is
responsible to cover the cost of reasonable legal fees.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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