Water well cross-connection bylaw defeated
Tuesday, Jan 31, 2017 06:00 am
DIDSBURY – A bylaw that would have forced Didsbury residents with access to the town water system to decommission their water wells and use town water was defeated by council in the regular meeting on Jan. 24.
Christofer Atchison, manager of legislative and development services, spoke to council before the vote and said the proposed bylaw (bylaw 2017-04 water) was about “cross-connection” of water sources.
The bylaw would have replaced the previous water bylaw, bylaw 2013-08 from 2013.
“It’s mostly dealing with people who have water wells and are also using town services or have water wells and there are town services running directly in front of their property,” said Atchinson.
In a briefing note to council regarding the proposed bylaw, administration stated that it has discovered that there are a number of properties in the Town of Didsbury that are accessing the town’s water system in contradiction of standard practices.
The bylaw would have given those properties that have an alternate source of water and are adjacent to a main line five years to connect to town water and decommission the alternate source.
Any property that is currently connected to the town water system and an alternate source of water would have had one year to decommission the alternate source.
Atchison told council administration estimates that there are fewer than five properties in town that are currently operating with the town water system and an alternate source of water.
“We run into major problems when you have cross-connection of water sources,” he said. “Mostly being, there is the opportunity for people to use the town water without being billed appropriately.
“The other instance being that the town infrastructure does not continue to move out as it is supposed to if we have a row of people who have alternate water supplies and choose not to hook up to the town water system.
“This bylaw is essentially making sure that if there is access to town water, people are using it.”
Coun. Garth Hollinger asked if residents with water wells and access to town water could still use the water well water for lawns and gardens. Atchison said they would not be allowed to use a water well if they had town water service.
“There is a few people in town who like to use their well system for gardens, yards, etc., not necessarily for residential use,” said Hollinger.
“The problem with that is you have no way of telling if they are using your water source or not,” replied Atchison. “That’s why it’s standard throughout the municipality that if you’re connected to water you have to use our water and not your water well.”
Atchison said those people who have water wells and are not able to access town water are not affected and can still use their own water well.
Coun. Joyce McCoy asked how administration can be sure there are only five properties with a water well using town water.
“That’s exactly the problem we run into,” replied Atchison. “We’re not finding out about properties using their water well until they have an issue. (For example), there’s a water main break and we find out the property isn’t even connected to the water main system. Or we go there to do a meter read and there isn’t even a meter because they aren’t hooked up to the system.
“So there are instances and right now we can’t do anything about it. This bylaw is about essentially giving us the teeth to have them connect to our water system. We estimate five properties, but there may well be double that.”
Atchison said administration usually has a good idea of who uses the water system, to ensure that other taxpayers aren’t subsidizing people using town water who don’t have a meter because they also have a well.
After the motion was defeated McCoy asked if council could have more information and possibly bring the motion back.
“You can certainly ask for more information,” said Atchison. “We would need to know what kind of information you’re looking for and put together a report. We would have to follow the procedural bylaw for it to return to council. Someone would have to bring it back.”
Hollinger asked for the exact number of residents that would be affected. “I would like to know how many people are actually affected by this,” he said. “Saying five is a good guess–I’m just not comfortable with this.
Atchison recommended council make a motion asking staff to bring back more information. “When we have that report prepared we would have to recall that motion as required by the procedural bylaw,” he said.
McCoy put forth a motion, which was carried, to direct administration to return with a report outlining the number of residents affected by the amendments to bylaw 2017-04 water.
Administration will now return with the requested report to council in the future, said Atchison to the Gazette. “Once that report is returned, council will decide whether to have the bylaw returned for review.”
In other council news, council carried bylaw 2017-03 supplementary assessment, which allows the town to collect un-assessed taxes in the fall.
The background information states that the town has collected supplementary assessments since 2008. A supplementary assessment must reflect the value of an improvement that has not been previously assessed; the increase in the value of an improvement since it was last assessed.
The supplementary assessment bylaw authorizes the assessments to be prepared for the purpose of imposing a tax under part 10 of the Municipal Government Act. Supplementary assessment is the process to allocate taxes on properties that are newly constructed during a year.
Council carried a motion to write off the Bri-Gille Development Corporation’s outstanding account for $7,123.67, which includes $4,238.38 in cost of invoices and $2,885.26 in accrued penalties.
The background information states that the Poplar Ridge Development has been dormant for many years and during this time the property became unsightly from neglect. The town initiated three cleanup orders beginning in 2012. The properties owned by Bri-Gille were sold in 2013. The account has been deemed uncollectible.
“Why would you not put a condition on the property for that amount? Because that’s substantial,” asked McCoy.
“Typically how it should have worked and how it will work in the future is that when accounts receivable invoices are outstanding for more than three months they’re automatically transferred to tax rolls,” Atchison replied. “So that when that tax roll gets sold those amounts become due. That wasn’t done in this instance. I can’t say why. Once the company was sold and that corporation is no longer active there was no one to go back on. Moving forward administration has changed practice.”
Following a 2-2 tie vote (councillors Lavar Adams, Sheila Schulz and Gail Nowlan were absent), a motion to permit the landowners of a property on 20th Avenue to remove four trees from their property was defeated.
The request was made by the landowner who was concerned about the height of the boulevard, which makes snow and ice removal difficult.
Council carried a motion to direct administration to enter into a temporary lease with the Didsbury Car Club to allow them to use the fire hall for their meeting space. The car club will be required to share the space with the Friends of the Library.
“Essentially the town has approved a lease in the old fire hall for both the Didsbury Car Club and Didsbury Friends of the Library,” said Atchison. “Both of these leases are approved with the understanding that when council decides on the future of the building the organizations would be required to vacate the premises.”
Kathleen Windsor and Kevin Bentley of the Canada 150 committee appeared before council to give an update about the planned festivities.
Some of the events planned include a community cookbook, certificates for Didsbury babies born this year, year-in-the-life of Didsbury and Didsbury inventions.
Coming up first is the winter skating party on Feb. 12 at Shantz rinks with a bonfire, hotdogs, hot chocolate, Didsbee and, of course, skating.