The Municipality of Crowsnest Pass is seeking legal advice after a resident asked to build a road through his proposed subdivision before putting up a security deposit.
Trevor Hay, who hopes to build homes for his family atop Blairmore’s Greenwood Heights, says the project has been held up since 2010 because he can’t afford the deposit and construction costs at the same time.
“There’s a very real human component that’s significant in order to completely understand this situation,” Hay told council Jan. 13. He’d hoped to build a home for himself and his wife and to give lots to their three adult children.
“This should’ve been one of the most exciting and fulfilling times of our lives,” he said. “Instead, it’s been like a recurring nightmare.”
Council’s subdivision policy (2006-02) requires that developers put up the full estimated costs to build civic amenities through a subdivision — including public roads — before breaking ground. Security deposits keep municipalities off the hook should these amenities fail in the two years after construction, Patrick Thomas, Crownest Pass’s chief administrative officer, explained at council’s regular meeting Feb. 7.
Hay wants to put down a 25 per cent security deposit after the municipality signs off on the road through Greenwood Heights. The municipality would close the road to the public and block the subdivision if the road were to fail inspection.
“It would stay a private road through (an undivided) private property,” Thomas said, adding that Hay’s 25 per cent would safeguard the municipality’s interests.
Council unanimously approved a two-year extension for Hay’s project, but set aside his request for a smaller security deposit.
“My biggest concern is that this will set a precedent moving forward,” Mayor Blair Painter said.
Coun. Dean Ward drew on the example of a Blairmore development that went bust 15 years ago, which council had to buy back at taxpayers’ expense.
“I’m not talking about (Hay’s) development, specifically. But, it’s not our job to just look after the safety of the municipality. It’s also to look after the safety of all our residents,” Ward said, cautioning that hilltop construction can put underlying homes at risk of flooding.
“How many times do you hear about unintended consequences?” Ward asked, echoing Painter’s concerns about setting a potentially dangerous precedent.
Speaking to the public perception that recent councils have been overly cautious, Coun. Vicki Kubik said, “If we sit here tonight with a bit of trepidation, it’s for a good reason.”
Coun. Lisa Sygutek then tabled a motion calling for legal advice from the municipality’s legal team.
“Are we willing to go down this road?” she asked. “Because once we’ve opened up this box, every developer is going to come to us asking for the same thing.”
Council unanimously passed Sygetuk’s motion.
Hay defended his position when council opened the floor, stressing that he was “very sensitive to the issue of flooding.”
Three engineering surveys have shown that a properly built road would improve drainage atop Greenwood Heights as much as 85 per cent, he said.
Mayor Painter thanked Hay for his input and said council would revisit the issue of his security deposit at a later date.