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UPDATED: ALC orders City of Powell River to remove road

Hemlock Street loop must be remediated by August 2019
Hemlock Street Powell River
UNAUTHORIZED THOROUGHFARE: BC’s Agricultural Land Commission has ordered City of Powell River to remove the Hemlock Street loop in Townsite. Peak photo

BC’s Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) has ordered City of Powell River to remove a road and return the property to the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) by August 31, 2019.

The disputed road is Hemlock Street in Townsite, specifically where it loops around Timberlane Estates above Brooks Secondary School. The loop accommodates traffic through the subdivision and was built within the Agricultural Land Reserve without approval, a fact that the city has admitted to.

What was built has to be torn down and brought back to agricultural capability, according to ALC director of operations Avtar Sundher.

“We need to address this issue now,” said Sundher.

Failure to comply with the order could result in a penalty of up to $100,000, a court order, and other enforcement measures, including taking the case to the BC Supreme Court.

In a letter to the city, ALC chief executive officer Kim Grout ordered the city to: remove the road, and all fill and other materials brought on land in the Agricultural Land Reserve; remediate the property within the statutory right of way to ensure soil agriculture capability is similar or better than before the road went in; and apply to have the right of way removed from the property title.  

The order stated that removal of asphalt, unauthorized fill and remediation must be overseen and signed off on by a qualified environmental professional.

Grout can still agree to vary the decision and the city can make a notice of appeal to the ALC within 60 days of receipt of the letter that arrived at city hall on October 26. But it is very unlikely the decision will be overturned.

“It's not very common,” said Sundher. “We don't have many appeals. We are getting more and more of them as we are taking enforcement action.”

According to Sundher, it is up to the commissioners to determine if the city has a valid appeal and if the order needs to be varied.

“They can provide direction back to Kim,” said Sundher. “It’s not very often an order is overturned, especially if the commission has made decisions refusing the application initially.”

From the city, response to the decision was short.

“Council has been briefed on the letter and staff is now working on options for council's review to take action on the matter,” said city director of economic development and communications Scott Randolph.

After purchasing the 0.2 hectare property from PRSC Land Developments in June 2017, the city became the registered owner.

No other parties, including the developers of Timberlane Estates, were named in the ALC ruling.

Grout said the commission acted on a public complaint and wrote the remediation order based, in part, on a commission official’s observations after visiting the property in 2016, and reviewing application decisions and correspondence.

In August 2017, city clerk and acting chief administrative officer Chris Jackson acknowledged the registration of the right of way and construction of the road within it were contrary to the ALC Act and ALR Regulation.

The city submitted an application in October 2017 to bring the Hemlock loop into compliance with the act and regulation. That was refused by the ALC Island Regional Panel.

Then in March of this year, the land commission informed the city that it “refuses the proposal to authorize existing statutory right of way and the constructed road within it.”

Following the refusal, city director of planning services Thomas Knight reported to committee of the whole in May that the road was in violation.

It was botched through a series of missed steps, misinformation and misinterpretation of what was put forth for registration, Knight said at the time, because the city took advice from the developers’ engineers and approved the road without registering it with the ALC.

Even Land Title and Survey Authority of BC missed the error, said Knight.

In June, city chief administrative officer Mac Fraser sent an email to Grout stating the city’s approval of the road intrusion into ALR had been inappropriate.

There is also the question of what will replace the loop. In his report to council, Knight said removal of the road would incur a liability to the city by limiting emergency access to the existing and now built-out subdivision.