By Stan Ashbee
Sunny South News
Property owners from the Hamlet of Diamond City visited Lethbridge County council recently to discuss a block separated by a public lane, which runs east-west through the block.
“Over the years the lane has been encroached upon by some of the landowners, as they’ve constructed buildings, structures, fences and hard landscaping,” said Larry Randle, director of community services for the county, during a report to council.
This has made the lane inaccessible, except for private property, as both ends of the lane are blocked to vehicles, Randle added.
In May 2014, Randle reported, a sketch plan of the block was done and confirmed the encroachment.
Fortis Alberta, according to Randle, has an overhead power line running the length of the lane way and Fortis has a right of way, to ensure there is access to their power line for maintenance and replacement purposes.
“County staff have been aware the lane has been blocked by the obstructions for some time but it was never pursued to have those obstructions removed,” said Randle, during his report to council.
Last April, Randle added, from a subdivision application by a couple of the properties on the block, it was identified and came to light, a shed belonging to an applicant was encroaching on the lane and blocking some of the through way.
“As a condition of the subdivision, that shed had to be removed. The applicant complied with that condition,” he said.
This triggered, Randle explained, the appropriate time to carry on with the process of trying to bring the lane way back to what it was originally intended to be, which was an open-through public lane.
“In June, staff sent a letter to the remaining property owners on the block, directing them to remove their obstructions by July 3 of this year,” said Randle.
Since that time, Randle said, there have been several meetings and telephone discussions between the county and a few of the property owners and a number of property owners have submitted a petition asking for the lane to be closed.
Randle said in order for the lane to be permanently closed, the property owners would have to negotiate access easements directly with Fortis Alberta.
“I think they kind of initiated that process and maybe have had some contact directly with Fortis. The county would also of course have to agree to that lane closure,” said Randle, adding in February the county agreed to send a letter to Fortis, on behalf of the property owners on the petition.
Fortis, Randle said, responded giving open indication anything might be possible.
One of the property owners, not on the petition, would like to see the remaining obstructions removed and the lane become fully developed as a public lane way and open road. As for financial implications, Randle noted, once the obstructions have been removed the county would have to construct the lane.
“The rough cost for doing so, if it were to be done by a private contractor would range, it is estimated, in the vicinity of $15-20,000. If county staff and equipment were available to do much of that work, that would drop the cost by again a rough estimate of 25 per cent,” said Randle.
If all the obstructions are removed and the lane is opened and developed, Randle said, the county would have to do some regular maintenance. If the lane were to be closed and removed as a public lane and properly sold to the adjacent property owners, there would be no ongoing maintenance or responsibility to the county.
It is recommended, Randle said in his report, county council reaffirms administration’s direction that was provided in a letter dated June 5, 2014 to the property owners regarding removal of obstructions blocking the lane way by July 3, 2015.
One of the property owners addressed council and said a number of property owners are petitioning to have a permanent lane closure put through on the east-west alley way.
“In regards to the Fortis situation, being that it’s the only utility in that corridor, we have come up with what we believe is an amicable solution to this issue,” said the property owner.
The property owner added the group of property owners will put forth an emergency response plan and a utilities services plan with Fortis directly to grant Fortis ease of access via a permanent caveat attached to certain properties.
Fortis, according to the property owner, has stated they are willing to work with the property owners listed on the petition. One of the items to be brought forward to Fortis is a permanent non-development zone around any of the Fortis power poles or points of access near the properties.
“We don’t want anything to impede our ability to have power supplied to our homes,” he added.
A motion was passed to direct county staff and property owners to continue discussions regarding the lane closure issue with Fortis and a report to be brought back to council. Deputy Reeve Henry Doeve opposed the motion.