By Trevor Busch
Although town administration was able to clarify some issues for frustrated residents of Westview Estates, forcing a private land owner to comply with some of the wants and desires of area citizens often lies beyond the pale of town authority.
On June 25, concerns had been brought forward to town council by a delegation of residents from Westview Estates, specifically targeting the condition of the Westview Estates Pond to the north and south, as well as the path around the pond. The delegation identified a number of items and requested further information or updates as to their status.
“This area has a long history of concerns, and we’ve been working to try to keep it moving forward, but some of the issues have been difficult to resolve and there’s a lack of co-operation from this developer,” said planning director Phyllis Monks at council’s July 16 regular meeting. “Currently we’re working on Phase 6 of development with 1338768 Alberta Ltd. We’re reviewing the obligations of the development agreement, and using the processes available within the agreement to get some outstanding work completed.”
Monks described some of the deficiencies at the site, and what the town is doing to try to rectify concerns.
“There are deficiencies that have been formally identified to the developer with a 30-day notice. Once that time has passed, we’ll utilize securities to complete that work. That work includes grading and seeding the north portion of the pond that is still mainly owned by the developer, installation of an aeration fountain in the pond that will allow for recirculation and will reduce the smells, completion of fencing on that lot for a few homes that were actually in Phases 3-4 of development — we had received drawings and been advised that the fencing was complete, but that’s not correct — and finally, the cutting of a trench or some other way to relieve the drainage issue at the end of the lane that was installed in Phase 6. It has ponding that occurs in high rain periods, and will cause problems in the future.”
Several town departments — including bylaw enforcement through the Taber Police Service — have been involved in addressing problems in the area.
“The recreation and public works departments have both been working diligently at keeping the area looking good, given their challenges. Our bylaw officer has been working at keeping weed control in the fields and vacant lots surrounding the area using the enforcement tools that she has,” continued Monks.
Landscaping around the north portion of the pond and peninsula are not currently covered under a development agreement, while the north portion of the pond itself is covered under the Phase 6 agreement.
“If we move forward with the work once our 30-day notice has passed, we’ll at least be able to do the required grading and seeding of the grass, stopping some of the erosion that’s occurring, we’ll be able to get a mower in there, and it will start to look a little bit better,” said Monks. “It won’t be completed to the standard of the rest of the pond, because we don’t own that portion of north land, but it will look better. The rest of the landscaping around the park will be included in a future phase.”
While not initially included in the design of the storm pond, the town has requested that it be added and the developer had agreed to this action in the past, as it had been identified as a design issue. According to administration, this issue remains outstanding but the town plans to move forward with the installation.
A children’s play area was initially discussed for the park area to the northwest of the pond in a future phase.
“As development continues the town will request that that be included in the design, but we have no ability to complete that work right now as we don’t own the lands where it was to be installed,” said Monks.
The recreation department is responsible for the ongoing maintenance of the south portion of the park adjacent to the pond, and have utilized substantial staff resources to maintain and upkeep the parks and plantings.
“There are some beds in different areas that have backyards that have drains running into that public area — so they’ve got weeping tile running underneath and into the public area,” said Monks. “Some of that water has high alkalinity, and that is a little bit difficult for the plants to deal with, as well as some of the trees are just actually being drowned in the beds because there’s too much water. So it’s very hard to maintain. Replacing them isn’t always practical in those areas, because they’re just going to die again. Parks is continuing to monitor that closely, and they’re working to improve those conditions.”
Issues with regard to the area have been ongoing for more than a decade. According to administration, at this time there is no indication from the developer that they plan to continue with future phases, and the town has no ability to move the project forward until such time as the developer applies for additional phases.
“There have been more than one developer in the area and we have worked with both over that time to try to complete deficiencies and deal with design issues and impacts. We can’t ensure the development will be completed in a given time, that aspect is beyond our control, but we’ll continue to work with the tools that we have to resolve at least the outstanding issues and try to keep the area maintained.”
Following Monks’ presentation, CAO Cory Armfelt confirmed that the legal aspects surrounding the ongoing battle between town and developer would be discussed during closed session later in the meeting.
“We’ve been working very hard to get this developer to comply. The reality is the north half of that pond is not owned by the Town of Taber, and we’ve been working trying to get a subdivision on the north half of that pond for the last five years. There has been a complete lack of co-operation with the developer to subdivide off the north half of the pond, which I think is really the lightning rod of a number of issues.”