Coldstream development fee dispute continues

Coldstream resident never dreamed a simple garage renovation project would turn into a nightmare...

All Judy Paterson wanted to do was renovate her garage.

She knew it would cost a few bucks, considering the extent of the plans, but she never imagined the project would evolve into such a nightmare.

Upon seeking a building permit for her Kidston Road home, the Coldstream resident discovered that she was going to be required to pay for off-site works so the district could construct a path in front of her home.

That was approximately one year ago.

“To date I have not received my building permit,” said Paterson, who is not willing to pay for off-site works or sell a portion of her land.

“We won’t negotiate a building permit because that’s illegal.”

Noting the local government act, Paterson says such demands can only be made on subdivisions or developments, not single homes.

Her lawyer agrees.

In a letter to Paterson, the office of Farris, Vaughan, Wills and Murphy LLP concludes: “In our opinion, the district has acted outside the scope of their authority.

“Our opinion is that they are attempting to strong-arm you into granting the (right-of-way) for the pathway and have no legalistic basis on which to request the works and services sought.”

Coldstream defends its actions, citing a subdivision, development and servicing bylaw (which was altered in 2008 to allow such demands on single homes).

“We sought legal counsel on it and they said you can make this request for works to be done,” said Mayor Jim Garlick.

The bylaw states that the district is permitted to require off-site works fronting a property when any development takes place on the property.

“For the purposes of the bylaw, the term ‘development’ refers to either a subdivision or a property improvement requiring a building permit,” said Michael Stamhuis, Coldstream’s chief administrative officer, in a report.

Still, Paterson feels Coldstream is acting beyond its authority, using a power she says it doesn’t have to force residents to pay for works or sell land. And on top of her own frustrating situation, she is concerned about what this could mean for other Coldstream residents wanting to renovate.

“This means that every resident in Coldstream could have a public path go through their yard at any time,” she said.

While Coldstream maintains its right to make such requests, under the local government act, council is examining its current practice.

“We are going to have this drawn up with exemptions to single family,” said Garlick of potential options being considered.

Exemptions to single-family homes, including two-family dwellings, would remove those, such as Paterson, from being required to provide works or land. It would only then apply to multi-family units and subdivisions.

But when considering the growing need across the community for off-site works, whether it be a pathway to increase public safety or storm drainage, one councillor wants to keep all the options on the table.

“It’s a tough problem that we’re dealing with,” said Coun. Richard Enns.

“But I don’t think at this information-gathering stage we should be making decisions about narrowing our focus just yet.”

Coldstream’s infrastructure is also being reviewed to determine if specific requests for off-site frontage works may be appropriate.

Off -site works could include paving, ditches, curb and gutter, storm sewers and underground wiring.

Coldstream has also compared its practices with other communities and has found that the district’s are more onerous than many others.