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Code of the West

The Code of the West was first chronicled by the famous Western writer, Zane Grey.  The men and women were bound by an unwritten code of conduct. The values of integrity and self-reliance guided their decisions, actions and interactions. It was then adapted by the Municipal District of Willow Creek No. 26 in Alberta to assist residents living outside of city limits. In keeping with that spirit, The Rural Municipality of Aberdeen No. 373 offers this information to assist the citizens who wish to follow in the footsteps of those rugged pioneers and individualists by choosing to live outside city limits. Please know we genuinely offer these comments in hopes to help you enjoy your decision to move to the country. 

It is important for you to know that life in the country is different from life in the city.  Rural Municipalities are not able to provide the same level of service the urban governments provide. To that end, we are providing you with the following information to help you make an educated and informed decision when purchasing or developing rural land. 

As outlined in Section 3 of The Agriculture Operations Act of Saskatchewan, the legislation is designed to protect agriculture operations from nuisance liability claims where the operators are using generally accepted agricultural practices following The Act and Regulations, with respect to agricultural operations. Owning agricultural land means knowing how to care for it. 

There are a few things you need to know:

1.1 Farmers often work around the clock, especially during planting and harvest time.  Dairy operators sometimes milk without stopping and hay is often swathed or baled at night. It is possible that adjoining agriculture uses can disturb your peace and quiet. 

1.2 Land preparation and other operations can cause dust, especially during windy and dry weather.   

1.3 Farmers occasionally burn their properties to keep them clean of debris, weeds, and other obstructions. This burning creates smoke that you may find objectionable.  Notification of a controlled burn must be received prior to burning. Please contact the Municipal office for information. 

1.4 Chemicals (mainly fertilizers and herbicides) are often used in growing crops. You may be sensitive to these substances and many people actually have severe allergic reactions. The chemicals may be applied by airplanes that fly early in the morning and late in the evening. 

1.5 Animals and their manure can cause objectionable odours. What else can we say?

1.6 Agriculture is an important business in the Municipality. If you choose to live among the farms and ranches of our rural countryside, do not expect the municipal government to intervene in the normal day-to-day operations of your agri-business neighbours. 

1.7 Before buying land, you should know if it has noxious or restricted weeds that may be expensive to control, and that you will be required to control said weeds. Some plants are poisonous to horses and other livestock, even though they are not classified as “noxious” or “restricted.”

1.8 Animals can be dangerous. Cattle, stallions, rams, boars, buffalo etc. can attack humans. You need to know that it is not safe to enter pens or fields where animals are kept.

1.9 Dogs harassing livestock can be legally shot. You are responsible for keep your animals/pets on your property or under your direct control. 

1.10 If you own livestock, it is your responsibility to fence them in, not your neighbour’s responsibility to fence them out. 

Utility Services
2.1 Water, sewer, electric, telephone, internet, and other services may be unavailable or may not operate at urban standards. Repairs can often take much longer than in towns or cities. 

2.2 Telephone communications can be a problem, especially in foothills or wooded areas of the Municipality. It may be difficult to obtain another line for fax or computer modem uses. Cellular phones will not work in all areas.    

2.3 Sewer service is not available in the municipality including country residential areas. You will need to use an approved septic system or other treatment process approved by the Saskatoon Health Region. The area you are located in and the type of soil you have available for a septic field will be very important in determining the cost and function of your system. Standards are controlled and enforced by the provisions of The Saskatchewan Plumbing and Drainage Regulations. 

2.4 In some cases, you do not have access to a supply of treated domestic water and you will have to locate an alternative supply. The most common method is by use of a water well. The cost for drilling and plumbing can be considerable. The quality and quantity of well water can vary from location to location and from season to season. It is strongly advised that you research this carefully through Saskatchewan Water Security Agency. The costs to decommission abandoned water wells can also be substantial.   

2.5 Not all wells can be used for watering of landscaping and/or livestock. Licenses from Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment may be required. If you have needs other than household, make certain that you have the proper approvals before you invest. It is strongly advised that you research this issue very carefully through Saskatchewan Environment.

2.6 Electric service is generally available to every area of the municipality. It is important to determine the proximity to electrical power. It can be very expensive to extend power lines to your property. 

2.7 It may be necessary to cross property owned by others in order to extend electric services to your property in the most efficient manner. It is important to make sure that the proper easements are in place to allow lines to be built to your property. 

2.8 Electric power may not be available in three phase service configuration. If you have special power requirements, it is important to know what level of service can be provided to your property. 

2.9 Power outages can occur. A loss of electric power can also interrupt your supply of water from a well or slow drip system. You may also lose food in freezers or refrigerators and power outages can cause problems with computers as well. It is advisable to be self-sufficient for several days if you live in the country. 

2.10 Trash removal can be much more expensive in rural areas than in a city. In some cases, your trash may have to be transported several miles from your home. In all cases, your only options will be to haul your trash to the transfer station yourself or hire a garbage collection service such as Loraas Disposal Services Ltd for your garbage and recycling needs.

2.11 BEFORE you dig, build, tear down, demolish or otherwise disturb existing improvements or ground call Sask 1st Call  at 1-866-828-4888 to locate utilities and, in case of demolition or relocation, make certain all utilities have been disconnected.  Even burning debris on the ground surface may result in serious utility line damage, such as melting an undetected underground gas line. You will also be required to contact Highway 41 Water Utility at (306)253-3364 to ensure water lines and connections will not be affected. 

The Property
There are many issues that can affect your property it is important to research these items before purchasing land. 

3.1 NOT all lands are buildable. YOU must check with the Municipal Development Department to know if a piece of land may be built upon. Building and Development Permits are required. 

3.2 Existing easements may require you to allow construction of roads, power lines, water lines, sewer lines, etc. across your land. Check these issues carefully. Make sure easements are in place to allow utilities and access to be installed to your property as well. 

3.3 Fences that separate properties are often misaligned with the property lines. A legal survey of the land is the ONLY way to confirm the location of your property. You would be required to pay for all costs of a land survey if you require one.

3.4 Country Residential areas may have restrictive covenants that limit the use of the property. It is important to obtain the covenants (or confirm that there are none) and make sure that you can live with those rules.     

3.5 The surrounding properties will probably not remain as they are indefinitely. The view from your property may drastically change. 

3.6 You cannot assume that because the water flows across your property that you can use it. Check with Saskatchewan Water Security Agency. Be advised that under no circumstances are you allowed to divert, restrict, or redirect water from its natural outlet through which the water would normally drain. Be advised, even small alterations may cause significant increases in the volume of water downstream and you could be liable for all damage and flooding that your small diversion may cause. Do not assume you may direct water on your property towards Municipal ditches without explicit written permission from the Saskatchewan Water Security Agency.

3.7 Not all home based businesses are allowed in all areas. Check with the Municipal office prior to investing funds in a business that may not be allowed where you wish to live. 

Mother Nature
Residents of the country usually experience more problems when the elements and earth turn unfriendly. Here are some thoughts for you to consider. 

4.1 It is your responsibility to prevent fires. You MUST register a control burn before burning. Some burns require Fire permits before burning is allowed and it is your responsibility to inquire if you must obtain a permit. Fire Bans are routinely imposed and enforced. If a fire starts on your property, you are responsible for paying the ALL costs of extinguishing that fire. There is a minimum $1000 fee charged for all unregistered burns that are attended by the fire department. Investigate the impact of not purchasing Fire Fighting Insurance. 

4.2 Steep slopes can slide in unusually wet weather. Sloping has become a serious problem in many areas of Saskatchewan; perhaps that picturesque river or creek bank is not the ideal location to build a new home. Large rocks can also roll down steep slopes and present a great danger to people and property. 

4.3 The topography of the land can tell you where the water will go in the case of heavy precipitation. As indicated earlier, property owners may NOT interfere with the natural drainage course. When property owners fill ravines, they are required to have a geotechnical study conducted before you can obtain a development permit and a plumbing permit for a septic system. 

4.4 Nature can provide you with some wonderful neighbours. Most, such as deer and hawks, are positive additions to the environment. However, even ‘harmless’ animals like deer can cross the road unexpectedly and cause serious traffic accidents. Rural development encroaches on traditional wildlife habitat. In general, it is best to enjoy wildlife from a distance and know that if you do not handle your pets and trash properly, it could cause problems for wildlife. 

4.5 The prevailing strong wind can be severe at any time of year. 

The fact that you can drive to your property does not necessarily guarantee that you, your guests, and emergency service vehicles can achieve that same level of access at all times. Please consider:

5.1 Emergency response times (police, fire suppression, medical care, etc.) cannot be guaranteed.

5.2 There can be problems with the legal aspects of access, especially if you gain access across property belonging to others. It is wise to obtain legal advice and understand the easements that may be necessary when these types of questions arise. 

5.3 You can experience problems with the maintenance and costs of maintenance of your road. The municipality maintains over 340 miles of road in the summer and over 200 miles of road in the winter. Some of these summer roads receive little to no maintenance at all – no grading or snow plowing. Make sure you know what type of maintenance your road may receive and who will provide that maintenance. Development permits will not be issued for a property that does not have access to an all-weather road.

5.4 Extreme weather conditions can destroy roads. It is wise to determine the impact of weather on your road. 

5.5 Some roads are considered heavy haul routes. Please be aware that large transport vehicles regularly travel many of our roads.

5.6 Many large construction/transport vehicles cannot navigate small, narrow roads and bridges. They are also subject to bridge and weight restrictions. If you plan to build, it is prudent to check out construction access. 

5.7 School buses may travel on maintained municipal roads that have not be designated as school bus routes by the school district. It is prudent to check with Prairie Spirit School Division to determine what bus routes provide services to your property. 

5.8 In extreme weather, even municipally maintained roads can become impassable. You may need a four wheel drive vehicle to travel during those episodes, which could last for several days. If roads are impassable, stay home. 

5.9 Natural disasters, especially floods, can destroy roads. The municipality will repair and maintain municipal roads, however, private roads are the responsibility of land owners who use those roads. A dry creek bed can become a raging torrent and wash out roads, bridges, and culverts. Residents could be isolated for several days. Residents served by private roads and/or bridges can be hit with a large repair and/or reconstruction after floods. Spring runoff and flooding has become a serious problem in many areas of the Municipality. Be aware you may have limited to no access to your property for several months at a time.

5.10 Unpaved roads generate dust. The municipality currently does authorize dust suppression, however, past experience has shown roads deteriorate at a rapid rate after suppression treatments. Be advised that dust is a fact of life for most rural residents. 

5.11 If your road is unpaved, it is highly unlikely that the municipality will pave it in the foreseeable future. Check carefully with the Municipal office when any statement is made by the seller of any property that indicates any unpaved roads will be paved!  
5.12 Any request for road development shall be in accordance with municipal road access policy. Call the Municipal office for more information.

5.13 Unpaved roads are not always smooth and are often slippery when they are wet or icy. You will experience an increase in vehicle maintenance costs when you regularly travel on rural roads.

5.14 Home mail delivery is not available to any areas of the Municipality. Depending on availability you may obtain a Post Office Box in the Town of Aberdeen or at any P.O. Box location of your choice. We have found there is a higher success rate when speaking with the local postmaster in Aberdeen or Saskatoon rather than calling the toll free number listed in the phone book. Calling the toll free number will find you speaking with a representative in the Eastern Provinces who are unaware of the demographics within this Municipality. You will be required to provide your legal land description when obtaining a PO Box. Be advised, even if your property is situated in a Country Residential area, there are no recognized street addresses within the Municipality. You must provide your Lot, Block, Plan Number, along with the land location.

5.15 Newspaper delivery is similarly not available to most rural residents. Check with the newspaper of your choice before assuming you can get home delivery. 

5.16 Standard parcel and overnight package delivery can be a problem for those who live in the country. Confirm with the service providers as to your status.   

In Conclusion

Even though you pay property taxes to the municipality, the amount of tax collected does not cover the cost of services provided to rural residents. 

The amount of taxes an individual landowner pays does not indicate that you should expect a higher level of individual service. The municipality attempts to provide consistent service levels to all. 

This information is by no means complete. There are other issues that you may encounter that we have overlooked and we encourage you to be vigilant in your duties to explore and examine those things that could cause your move to be less than you expect. We have offered these comments in sincere hope that it can help you enjoy your decision to reside in the country. It is not our intent to dissuade you, only to inform you.