Efforts to make a safer route for kids going to school and cyclists heading to the park have left at least one Coldstream resident feeling cornered.
Coldstream has plans to construct a multi-use trail on Kidston Road from Palfrey Drive to the Red Gate at Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park. The path aims to provide a safer route while encouraging more people to get out of their cars and walk, run or ride their bikes.
But adding a path to the narrow road has proven a challenge as Coldstream tries to convince homeowners to let them encroach on their properties.
One way Coldstream is able to get homeowners to consider is when they apply for a building permit. When a permit is sought the district can then request that the owner complete road improvements. But instead of forcing homeowners to do road work, Coldstream insists it will negotiate.
“We’re not looking to make it onerous,” said Mayor Jim Garlick, adding that Coldstream will try to compromise to receive the land right-of-ways. “We would try to make it as little impact on them as possible.”
Judy Paterson is one homeowner caught up in the situation, since she applied to build a garage, extension and pool at her Kidston Road property. The district refused to issue her the building permit unless she provides what she estimates to be approximately $300,000 worth of works and services, or give the district land for the multi-use path at its assessed value.
“This council is manipulating the rules and is hurting everyone in Coldstream,” said Paterson, adding that the previous owners of her property already gave the district land in order for the subdivision to proceed south.
She suggests that fair market value, not the assessed value, would be more appropriate. But even then, she isn’t keen to give up her land.
“The easement will adversely affect everything about our property,” said Paterson, noting that her property is a working agricultural lot and already has one multi-use pathway to the east of it.
“As the property is triangular in shape, we will have another multi-use pathway on our frontage making us virtually surrounded by paths.”
She is also concerned about setting a precedent.
“We will say that it is OK to negotiate a building permit for a road upgrade or a community project,” said Paterson, who doesn’t understand why she’s being treated like a developer when all she wants to do is build a garage on her own property.
Ken Dahlen, owner of Keith Construction and Paterson’s contractor, says this isn’t the first time he’s come up against this type of situation while working for a homeowner, whether in Coldstream, Vernon or the Regional District of North Okanagan.
He calls it an “abuse of power” and doesn’t foresee Coldstream getting many projects (such as the Kidston pathway) done at this rate.
The situation may also force homeowners to abandon renovation plans, move away and in turn hurt the economy, he says.
“You need to support your community,” he said. “This is not a time where we need to be turning the tables on our own people.”
Another Coldstream resident also disagrees with what the district is doing.
“What’s going to happen is you’re going to drive all the permits underground, which already happens,” said Darryl O’brian. “Or the poor little homeowner gets hit with all these costs and then they don’t want to do it anymore.”
Coldstream is considering adjusting its bylaw, by moving the threshold at which it can force work or right-of-ways, up to $50,000. It currently sits at zero, therefore anyone who applies for a building permit, even if it’s a $10,000 extension of their deck, could be forced to provide land or cash.
After hearing concerns that even the $50,000 threshold is too low, council agreed to have staff research a better long-term solution.
In the meantime, a few politicians are feeling uneasy about the situation they are putting homeowners in.
“What we’re doing is trying to facilitate upgrades that are necessary in the area. There are a number of ways of doing that,” said Coun. Doug Dirk, suggesting taxation, borrowing or even development cost charges.
Coun. Pat Cochrane adds: “The $50,000 is a huge improvement from zero, there’s no doubt about that… but I’m concerned that we perhaps could/should do better.”
Residents are reminded that a situation such as Paterson’s applies only to those who apply for a building permit.
“To paint you don’t need a building permit, to place windows you don’t need a building permit,” said Garlick.