By ROY WOOD
The Town of Osoyoos is in the early stages of developing a program to allow residents to share the cost of repairing neighborhood streets that otherwise might never be fixed.
A report to council from operations director Jim Dinwoodie cited two local road improvement projects – Harbor Key and Jasmine Drive – that are in the town’s five-year capital plan but continually lose out to higher priority projects.
“Arterial or feeder roads” serve a larger proportion of the population and, therefore, are given priority over local roads that benefit only the neighborhood in question.
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“The basis for providing community investment upgrades are based on the concept that the wider community uses the (feeder) road, so the community should make more of an investment in these roads,” the report said.
“Neighborhood roads generally serve the local neighborhood, so improvements serve a small (portion) of the community and add value (only) to the area and the property.”
The town does not have a policy outlining cost sharing between the municipality and property owners for local improvements. Typically, the improvements would involve sidewalks, curbs and gutters, storm and drainage, road paving, streetlights and landscaping.
According to Mmr. Dinwoodie’s report, improvements could be initiated by the town or by local residents. Cost-shared projects would have to be approved by a majority of local residents affected.
In a survey of other municipalities that have such programs, basic improvements like paving and sidewalks are shared 50-50. For aesthetic additions like ornamental lighting and landscaping, the residents’ share of the cost is usually higher.
Councillor CJ Rhodes pointed out that the issues on Harbor Key go deeper than just paving and sidewalks. He said that because of drainage or some other sub-surface problems, the roadway often floods when it rains.
Carol Boan, one of the Harbor Key residents who petitioned the town in 2013 for an upgrade, said Monday in an interview that the road is in need of rebuilding. “When we get a heavy rain, we get a lake on the road,” she said.
A 50-50 split of the costs, however, would be “really, really pricey for the residents (who) already pay fairly high taxes,” she said.
Chief administrative officer Barry Romanko said that in a case like Harbor Key there would need to be some discretion around what proportion, if any, the residents would have to pay. “But, if we have a policy, at least we can make a start,” he said.
Mr. Rhodes said such a policy would be “a great way to energize a community when it wants to get something done.”
Council directed the administration to prepare a formal policy and bring it back to council for more discussion. Mr. Romanko said it would likely take a month.