MD of Bonnyville council decided it was not bound by a 2007 resolution to lease a parcel of land to the Moose Lake Gospel Camp at its meeting last Wednesday.
The 51 acres of land sit north of a parcel of land on Moose Lake owned by the camp.
The MD decided to keep the land as recreational land, while the camp can maintain its current uses of the land.
Council would not be bound by its previous decision, said Reeve Ed Rondeau.
The terms of a 20-year agreement were in the process of being drawn up, according to camp manager Clayton Mutch.
Just how close the agreement was to getting signed and the reasons why the land was not leased were disputed at the meeting between Mutch and members of council.
In 2006, the camp asked the MD to donate the land, which council tabled. The MD came back with a plan to lease the land for 20 years. The MD sent a letter in April 2007, declining another offer to purchase the land and confirmed its intentions to sign a 20-year lease.
The camp's meeting minutes show it waited on the MD to return the terms of the 20-year lease but never heard back, said Mutch.
The MD did not receive any indication the camp wanted to lease, contended Rondeau.
"We were just waiting for the terms. We had no idea this would have to (go) back to council," replied Mutch.
"This is different from the Islamic issue how?" asked Rondeau at a different point in the meeting, comparing the request for a lease to a 90 per cent discount sale council gave for land to build a mosque near Cold Lake before reversing the decision.
"We rent to all religious denominations," replied Mutch. "We're not in it for strictly religious purposes."
"The reason we wanted a lease is not for our own thing, but we're running a community program," said Mutch. No one would be prevented from using the land who currently uses it, he added. Community Futures uses the camp in the summer for its youth entrepreneur camp.
Previous councils turned down the camp's offers to purchase the land in 2007, 2003, and 1998. Council passed a motion to proceed with the request to purchase the land in 2003, and set the market value at $38,000 in 2005, but did not sell the property.
The camp uses the land for horse riding and other activities. The septic field has been located on the land since the 1950's. Coun. Glen Johnson asked if the septic field is legal. Mutch assured council it meets standards.
After council nixed the idea of living up to the 2007 resolution, Mutch asked for a three-year lease.
Coun. Barry Kalinski said the problem with leasing would be the camp could limit access.
The camp wouldn't kick people off the land and tries to get as many people to use the grounds as possible, replied Mutch. He told council the camp wants a lease for liability reasons.
A lease would also help secure the programs at camp for years to come, he said after the meeting.
"It's extremely disappointing because as far as I'm concerned we were already given the 20-year lease agreement," he said, adding that he respects council's decision and hopes the MD will see value in the program in the future.
The camp has existed on Moose Lake since 1934.