Vernon neighbourhood landscaping draws debate

Turtle Mountain residents and Vernon council, staff debate current standards

How a Vernon neighbourhood will be landscaped, maintained and how it can be done in a $75,000 budget will be discussed by its residents and council.

Following a nearly 45-minute debate at council Monday, it was unanimously decided that City of Vernon administration bring forward a design plan for Turtle Mountain Boulevard that may include a variety of drought-tolerant plantings within $75,000 for Turtle Mountain residents and council to discuss.

Residents of Turtle Mountain have been upset with the city, who took over landscaping maintenance of the neighbourhood earlier this year when developer Wesbild Homes decided to discontinue the role it established in 2006, and continued to do the maintenance long past any required obligation.

“This spring, Wesbild made a business decision not to continue to pay for landscaping and that put the city in the position of assuming costs to maintain the landscaping of the public boulevards,” said city administrator Will Pearce. “The recommended current landscape standard would be reduced on a one-time basis to bring the landscape standard more in line with the community.”

READ MORE: Life on Vernon’s Turtle Mountain

Council was expected to vote on a pair of staff recommendations, which included proceeding with replacing grass islands and shrubs on the public boulevards within Turtle Mountain with landscape rock over landscape fabric, and replace the aging irrigation system at a one-time cost of $175,00, and that council direct administration to assume ongoing maintenance responsibility at a cost of $75,000 per year.

Pearce said if the city is to maintain the current level of standards at Turtle Mountain, it would cost closer to $150,000, a figure backed by city parks planner Kendra Kryszak, who explained to the packed gallery of Turtle Mountain residents how that number was reached.

It includes water consumption, weeding, pruning, replacement of trees, fall clean-up, shrub pruning and trimming and a 20 per cent contingency fund, leading one audience member to say “ridiculous.”

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Pearce said there are about “800 shrubs” in the area, and “300 some” trees that will be retained.

Coun. Dalvir Nahal said she spoke with Wesbild’s Brad Pelletier, who said their cost for landscaping maintenance was only $30,000, which drew loud applause from the gallery, and a warning from acting mayor Akbal Mund to refrain from comments (Mund was elected into acting mayor role when current acting mayor Brian Quiring declared a conflict of interest in the matter and did not take part in any discussion. Mayor Victor Cumming was absent from the meeting).

Nahal asked Kryszak if the $150,000 pricetag was the city staff cost.

“This is our cost for our guys doing the work,” said Kryszak. “That cost should not change if they’re doing this job correctly, it should not change that price. We would put out to tender because we don’t have the man force in-house to do this at this point in time.”

Asked by Coun. Scott Anderson if the city talked to Wesbild about its costs, Pearce said no.

Pearce said Turtle Mountain residents and property owners were contacted by mail to see if they wanted to enter a cost-sharing agreement to maintain the landscaping standard. There were 54 responses in all, and 38 answered no to cost-sharing.

Turtle Mountain resident Wanda Remfert presented to council on behalf of her neighbours.

“We are not a strata community and we have no desire to become one at this juncture,” said Remfert. “Our purchases at Turtle Mountain represent a purpose-driven decision to not become one. We also have no desire to form a community association to manage landscaping on our own. We feel we pay enough taxes to pay for the landscaping already.”

Pearce said the city collects approximately $631,000 in municipal levies from Turtle Mountain, and the amount that goes to city operations is about $344,000, which is intended to pay the full range of municipal services such as policing, fire, bylaw, and parks and recreation.

Mund said taxes are collected for the benefits of all residents.

“We don’t collect for certain neighbourhoods,” he said. “We collect for all services the city provides for everybody.”

It was then that Coun. Kari Gares made the motion to add public input to a redesign under the $75,000 budget.

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