By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News
Business owners along 12th Street in Nobleford rejected road upgrades after shooting down two bylaws.
During their regular May 21 meeting, Nobleford town council hosted a public hearing for Bylaw 661 — Special 2019 tax for 12th Street Industrial, Nobleford.
The proposed bylaw would have allowed the town to impose a special 2019 tax for 12th Street Industrial, to all the properties that would directly benefit from upgrading the gravel road there. The cost of the project would be paid by the property owners, and the total cost was estimated to be no more than $24,000.
The cost would be split between the the owners of the 12 property lots, at a rate of $2,000 per lot. This would be a one-time payment, which would allow the municipality to improve the gravel road. The project would effect approximately 380 linear meters of 12th Street, between Railway Avenue and Highway Avenue, which would be levelled to grade, soft spots compacted, gravel base and topping applied.
Previously, during Nobleford town council’s regular May 7 meeting, public hearings were held for proposed bylaws that would see 12th Street, 13th Street and 14th Street paved, at cost to the business owners in the form of a local improvement tax over a period of 10 years.
The paving project for 12th Street would have cost more than $230,000, and property owners of 12th Street did not want the paving to take place.
According to the minutes of the May 7 meeting, 10 out of 12 properties on 12th Street indicated that they were not in favour of paving the road. As the town did not have the support for paving the road, they did not proceed with further readings of the bylaw 653 — Local Improvement Tax of 12th Street Industrial. Council had then discussed and passed first reading of a special tax bylaw, in order to improve the road.
All roads in Nobleford are maintained to their original construction standard, and improvements to the roads are paid for by local improvement levies, paid for by the adjacent property owners.
During the May 21 public hearing for the special tax bylaw, more than 10 people showed up in attendance. The town received responses from the “majority of adjacent property owners”, according to town CAO Kirk Hoffman, as some of the property owners have more than one property, in objection to the bylaw, with the town receiving two letters, signed by multiple parties, stating their opposition to the project.
“What we have is nine of the representatives of 12 of the properties not supporting this bylaw,” said Hoffman, adding that is what he has received to date. “The town’s policy forever has been to maintain roads at the constructed standard. Once the road is paved, it’s maintained at that paving.”
One audience member asked council where they came up with the $24,000 cost “for a load of gravel”, as that was all that they needed, and to maybe see it maintained once a year, adding that he didn’t think they needed a $24,000 upgrade.
Mayor Don McDowell noted that it was “quite obvious”, as the landowners have objected to it. When asked that if the land owners objected to the bylaw it would be finished, McDowell replied that it was “not necessarily” finished and it would be brought to the council table, but they didn’t want to push something that wasn’t wanted.
“We’re trying to look at this as, you know, what’s best for the landowners, what’s best for Nobleford,” said McDowell. “We’re not going to try to ram something down somebody’s throat that they don’t want.”
Another attendee said that they had brought gravel for about $325 and been using that to fix a hole at the beginning of his lot since last year, adding that $24,000 worth of gravel would add two feet of it to the road. Hoffman replied that he was right, “that is what it would do”.
“This is not a maintenance of the road, this $24,000. The price I got from, is based on Groundbreakers (Construction) quotes to rebuild the base of the road, which means excavating a fair amount, and probably put a foot of different composite sand gravels, and then top it with gravel, that would probably raise that road by about eight inches at the end of the day, but you would have a base then to work with,” said Hoffman.
“This is the evaluation we have looked at over the years, and that is the price it would cost, if they’re in town to do it. Just to put gravel on, yeah, we could throw $1,000 worth of gravel, we can throw $2,000, we can throw $3,000. Next year, it is going to be gone again. But, that’s the difference between maintaining the road at the construction (standard). It was built at this standard of construction, and it has never been improved, so the town maintains it to that standard, and if that’s fine with everybody, that’s fine. If you want an improved road, it’s going to take a lot more than just putting gravel on it.”
An attendee said that if the potholes at the east end were fixed, and it was graded properly two or three times a years, 12th Street would be fine. Hoffman noted that maintenance seemed to be what people were looking for, and added that they tried to grade the road four times a year.
Coun. Melissa Jensen asked when was the last time 12th Street received improvement, besides basic maintenance. Hoffman said they put gravel on a corner last fall, and they maintain them every year. When asked if any property owners had contributed gravel, he said some of the former ones had.
Coun. Marinus de Leeuw expressed dissatisfaction over that, calling that practice “improfessional”.
“These are taxpayers we’re talking about, right. They’re paying taxes every single month, every single year. We can’t be sitting here taking their free gravel. That’s stupidity,” said de Leeuw, adding that gravel roads should be graded every month.
“It’s no wonder why these guys are here, I’m with them. We’ve got to start taking care of citizens. And these guys, these are our business owners. These guys bring in the people. If these guys leave, people will leave. This is our future of Nobleford, we’ve got to take care of them.”
Once audience member said he has owned his property for four years and has only seen a road grader out once, on a dry summer day, and said that the town needed to do grading when it’s wet out.
When asked by an audience member why it was just 12th Street, and not the whole community was upping their taxes to repair the roads. Hoffman said that all roads are constructed to a certain level when they’re built.
“For example, you buy a lot in a residential Nobleford subdivision, you pay, well now you’ll pay $60,000 for that lot. The costs of that $60,000 lot include, sewer, the water, electrical, the gas, curb, the gutter, sidewalks and the asphalt. They’re paying for it when they by it,” said Hoffman.
“Let’s look at 13th and 14th Street Industrial. When they brought those lots, council made the decision, we’re not going to pave these roads, because it’s going to cost an extra $20,000 more per lot. People that were interested in buying the properties said we don’t want that asphalt now. So that’s where a special land purchase agreement was in place, that when the roads were paved, that would be paved for through local improvement.
“It has always been paid by the adjacent property owners. Even Highway Avenue, when it was paved back in ’75, I guess was when the purchasers started paving, it’s always been like that.”
Coun. Don Holinaty, in response to a question about whether people should pay top dollar for pavement and gravel, noted it was “normal practice in any municipality” to charge property owners for road upgrades, adding that when he lived in the City of Lethbridge, he had to pay when the back alley behind his house was paved.
When asked by McDowell if they had enough support for a second reading of bylaw 661, Jensen was the sole councillor to respond affirmative. As there was not enough interest to proceed with second reading, Hoffman said the town would amend the tax notices to not reflect an upgrade to 12th Street, and the town would continue with the budgeted regular maintenance to the road moving forward.
The bylaw would stay active for one year, after which it effectively dies, with Hoffman noting it was “not practical” for council to revisit it, as tax notices were going out that week.