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Lacombe cracking down on worst city property encroachments

Property owners can sign agreement allowing minor encroachments
Lacombe city council has passed a new encroachment bylaw to deal with fences and other structures that have been built on city-owned land. (Photo contributed)

City of Lacombe plans to crack down on the worst examples of home owners' fences and sheds that have crept onto city-owned land.

It has been estimated that there could be hundreds, if not thousands, of cases where property owners' fences or other structures have encroached – usually inadvertently – onto city property.

To get handle on the problem, city staff have been working since last summer on identifying encroachments and crafting a bylaw with a sliding scale of measures to deal with the problem depending on how serious the encroachment is.

Encroachments have been divided into four categories: minor, moderate, major and egregious in the bylaw unanimously approved by council on Monday.

For minor and moderate encroachments, the city will mostly only take action if there are complaints.

For the most minor encroachments under 20 centimetres and have no impact on city operations or public enjoyment of land property owners will get a letter pointing out the issue but requires no action from the landowner.

An encroachment agreement may be required for encroachments under 20 centimetres that have an impact or for those between 20 centimetres and a metre. The cost depends on the size of the encroachment. A 10-year renewable agreement for a 35-square-metre encroachment would cost about $3,200.

Encroachments over one metre that do no qualify for an agreement or that have an impact on the city or public enjoyment must be removed or a fine applies: $250 for first offence. If the encroachment remains a year later, the fine is $500 and $1,000, a year after that and every subsequent year.

City chief administrative officer Matthew Goudy told council all of property owners with major encroachments will be getting letters informing them they have to fix their issues or face a $250 fine as of Nov. 1.

"There will be a uniform approach for all major encroachments," said Goudy.

For the worst examples of people building on city land, a tougher approach will be taken. Staff plan to identify three of the most egregious encroachments and bring them back to council to discuss next steps and whether it is time to call in the city's lawyer later this year.

"I many cases, there's significant infrastructure off-property that will require a tailored approach to these properties," he said.

Last summer, council voted not to force a property owner to take down a fence that encroached up to 1.3 metres (more than four feet) into the city's laneway. A surveyor found nine other nearby properties with various levels of encroachment.

Mayor Grant Creasey said the city has been taking time to look at the issues involved. "It's not a knee-jerk reaction. 

"It's been a long time coming and I think there's been a lot of consultations."

The mayor predicted there would be some pushback.

"Most people don't like a lot of extra rules. This, I think, has been well thought out and ought to come as no surprise to anyone. I expect we'll hear from a  few citizens nonetheless."


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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