Taxpayers in Powell River could be on the hook for approximately $561,000 unless City of Powell River can successfully appeal or find a compromise with the provincial Agricultural Land Commission (ALC).
The ALC has ordered the city to remediate a section of Hemlock Street that loops around Timberlane Estates by August 31, 2019, because the section of road encroaches on an Agricultural Land Reserve zone.
“It’s a very serious issue,” said acting mayor CaroleAnn Leishman at the regular council meeting on Thursday, December 6.
The rough estimates, as reported to council by city director of economic development and communications Scott Randolph, are $123,000 for tearing up the road and returning the land to its original or better agricultural capacity. Construction of two paved cul-de-sacs to allow for emergency and public vehicle access would cost approximately $438,000. Access to the residential neighbourhood is an important consideration to be made to the ALC in any appeal of its decision, according to Randolph.
Outgoing city chief administrative officer Mac Fraser said the city, which purchased the land in 2017, has no recourse for the developers to absorb part of the cost.
“The city has acknowledged that it made a mistake in not doing its due diligence to request the ALC authority to place the road on that piece of property,” said Fraser. “That’s an error made by the city and the city feels responsible.”
Randolph’s full report on the matter dated back to 2011 when the statutory right of way was registered and titled without prior ALC authorization.
Randolph recommended the city take two courses of action.
“Staff continue the necessary work for the removal of the statutory right of way and remediation of the soils, and the reconfiguration of the remaining roadways to allow for emergency access and egress of the residential neighbourhood,” said Randolph.
He added that the city should also immediately file a notice of appeal with the ALC and prepare a business case for considering the decision on the matter as well as develop solutions that will be agreeable to both parties.
The city has until December 22 to file an appeal.
“Serving a notice of appeal does not stay the remediation order and there are no guarantees an appeal would be successful,” said Randolph.
One solution suggested by councillor Jim Palm might be a land swap with the ALC.
“The city is in error. We know that and we have to do something about it,” said Palm. “We know that land swaps have taken place in other jurisdictions throughout the province. That may be something we could propose.”
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.