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Lacombe plans to address encroachments on city property

Fence that sits more than a metre on city property prompts review
Lacombe city council voted Tuesday not to take down a fence that encroaches on city land. (Photo by Black Press News Services)

Lacombe city council voted not to make a resident immediately take down a fence that is built on city-owned land.

However, councillors made clear something needs to be done to deal with numerous encroachments onto city land and directed administration to come back with options to address the situation.

After a lengthy debate, council voted 4-2 against a motion to direct administration to remove the fence at a property in the area of 54th Street and 52nd Avenue. At one point, the fence is located nearly 1.3 m (just over four feet) into the city laneway.

Mayor Grant Creasey said the public should know “this issue is far from over” and he expects it will be back before council soon.

“The difficulty for me comes in how do we enforce this on one property and not on everyone equally?

“There’s no denying it’s wrong. It should not be on public property, period.”

However, since the city has no need or future intent for the property he questioned why enforcement was necessary at this time.

“I’m not saying there shouldn’t be some sort of consequences,” he said, adding he would prefer to see it dealt with through an agreement with the property owner acknowledging their fence is on city property.

If the city needed the land later, the owner would be required to move the fence at their expense.

Coun. Chris Ross, who voted against forcing removal of the fence, proposed a motion to direct administration to include an “option for encroachment agreements that ensures the city is fairly compensated for the work involved in preparing and executing the agreement and for the value of the public lands occupied.”

Encroachment agreement options are expected to come back to council in an upcoming review of planning and development fees.

The improperly placed fence came to the city’s administration after a complaint was received last year. City staff told the homeowner to move the fence, however, they resisted and asked for a review.

At an open forum, the homeowner said they did not want to bear the costs of moving the fence while pointing out other nearby properties were also encroaching onto city land.

Surveyors later found nine nearby properties encroached onto city property, ranging from a few centimetres to more than a metre.

Council voted to delay taking any action until they could have a deeper dive on the problem.

A report to council from planning and development services manager Nancy Hackett said over the years a number of encroachments have come to the city’s attention. In some cases, property owners have entered into right-to-occupy or encroachment agreements. Other times, encroachments have been removed.

Administration proposed a directive to provide consistency in how encroachments were handled. Encroachment agreements could be allowed in minor cases and when it does not affect the city’s or public’s use of the land. Encroachments that are not approved would have to be removed.

Councillors Thalia Hibbs and Scott Dallas voted in favour of ordering the fence moved.

Hibbs said all encroachment cases must be treated the same.

“I think it does have to be the same for every single landowner. In this case, it’s an egregious amount that we’re talking about. It’s not just a couple of inches.”

Coun. Cora Hoekstra suggested the homeowner be allowed to keep the fence but face an annual fine or fee.

“I do think there has to be some consequence for this owner,” she added, that there should be some “financial ramifications” for other owners who have encroached.

“This can’t go on without some significant consequences, not just a slap on the wrist.”

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Paul Cowley

About the Author: Paul Cowley

Paul grew up in Brampton, Ont. and began his journalism career in 1990 at the Alaska Highway News in Fort. St. John, B.C.
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