By Trevor Busch
Following a 4-2 split vote, the Town of Taber will be sharing the cost of constructing a fence between the curling club parking lot and Signature Pointe, but not before strong objections were raised among some members of council.
On July 6, town administration received an inquiry from the Signature Pointe Homeowners Association requesting an agreement with the Town of Taber to share the cost of constructing a fence between their property and the Taber Curling Club parking lot. A 50/50 cost sharing agreement would be split $3,375 between both parties.
The association had received a quote from VHL Construction for $6,750 (excluding GST) to install a 150 foot chain-link fence with white privacy slates.
According to a letter to the town from association chair Linda Haynes that was included as part of council’s July 20 agenda, the membership believes a fence in this location would improve the aesthetics of the area.
“We hope you all agree that this fence would be attractive and would clean up the ongoing unsightly condition that has existed in that area,” stated Haynes. “Thank you for your consideration.”
Dumpsters located in the parking lot adjacent to Signature Pointe have occasionally drawn the ire of local residents over the past few years when garbage and other items have been improperly disposed of or left strewn around the location.
Coun. Louie Tams inquired about the reasoning behind the association coming to the town to propose the cost sharing arrangement.
“Administration is not aware of the reason,” said CAO Cory Armfelt at council’s July 20 meeting. “The letter was sent, so I could not speak to why they have asked.”
Coun. Jack Brewin was inclined to support the request.
“I drove by there the other day, and I’ve read the recommendation here, but I’m afraid I’d have to support building a fence there and sharing the cost with the seniors complex there, because of garbage that blows across the parking lot and what not, if we had a fence there perhaps it would catch it from getting into the trees. I would vote in favour of sharing the cost of this fence.”
Concerned about the possible precedent-setting implications of such a decision, Coun. Joe Strojwas was opposed to any allocation of taxpayer dollars.
“As much as I understand their dilemma over there, this really opens up a whole can of worms for the town for any private property that’s alongside town property. It then becomes open to this type of a request. This will open up a can of worms that we probably don’t want to go down because of that. I appreciate the fact (of) what they want, and I realize there’s some unique situations there — they have also trimmed up the bottom of those trees so you can see through there. I cannot support this because of the implications it could give down the road. If you do it for one organization, there’s going to be requests from other groups, other private properties to come through.”
Adopting a resident’s viewpoint, Brewin saw the issue as one of ownership and responsibility.
“I think the property owner is responsible for the garbage on their property, and it’s up to them to contain it. I think in this case we have an issue here that the traffic and garbage that’s left by certain people in that parking lot is going on to their property, and I think by putting up a fence there, we can justify that.”
Coun. Mark Garner was in full support of Brewin’s suggestion.
“I agree fully with Councillor Brewin, and I think the old adage goes: ‘Good fences make good neighbours.’ I think it behooves us to do this. It’s not a lot of money, but you’ve got to understand that’s a unique position where we’re neighbouring with those people. We all know there’s an ongoing problem there with littering — we know that for a fact — and on any given day, that garbage can blow onto these people’s property. I think it behooves us to be good neighbours to them.”
Envisioning an open season on town financial resources for anyone with private property adjacent to public, Coun. Louie Tams was unimpressed by his colleagues’ arguments in favour of supporting the cost-share.
“I happen to agree with Councillor Strojwas. This is going to open a big can of worms, anybody that’s bordering on our municipal property that wants a fence because it’s unsightly…if we go to our industrial park we have boulevards along the road, and fences along the road, and 20 feet of town-owned property that is being maintained by the property owner — probably mostly because they don’t own it, but they use it — I think we are opening a big can of worms here that is not necessarily the town’s problem. They’re requesting that we do this for aesthetics, but I don’t think aesthetics is going to help the problem that they’re trying to deal with. That’s the fact that parking lot is packed full of cars and people socializing. I think it would be wrong for us to participate in building a fence to separate this from that, when we have all kinds of areas in this town that are just going to keep coming and coming and coming if we do this.”
Coun. Garth Bekkering was dismissive of the argument that any precedent might be set.
“I think the precedent-setting that is mentioned by Councillors Strojwas and Councillor Tams is insignificant. I think this is a very unique situation. These people have put up with Cornfest for 25 years, with the noises and the music — with nary a complaint, I believe. They’ve been good neighbours to us, let’s be good neighbours to them. I would support the split cost.”
Strojwas shot back the situation was largely one of buyer beware.
“Just a footnote. I live on a golf course, I get golf balls bounce off my house and break windows. Those people (Signature Pointe) bought in that situation, knowing that Cornfest has been there. So as much as we want to be good neighbours about this whole thing, they bought in an area that was adjacent to a parking lot where Cornfest, parking, different things happen. So I don’t fly that conversation, it just doesn’t make sense. They could have bought some place else.”
“It doesn’t make sense to me to build on a golf course where you can get hit by golf balls every day,” replied Brewin. “But I don’t think that’s really the same as garbage blowing into your property. I’ll still stand by my position on this.”
Calling for a recorded vote on the resolution, Garner put forward a motion to direct administration to enter into a 50-50 cost sharing agreement with the Signature Pointe Homeowners Association to have a fence constructed between their property and the Taber Curling Club parking lot, for a maximum of $3,375 (excluding GST), with the funding to be allocated from operating reserves.
The motion passed by a 4-2 vote, with Councillors Tams and Strojwas opposed. Coun. Carly Firth was absent.
Administration’s original recommendation, declined by council, was to thank the Signature Pointe Homeowners Association for their request and decline to participate in the requested cost share at this time.