A man walks past potholes on Alexander Street between 2nd Avenue and 4th Avenue. (Jesse Winter/Yukon News file)

Alexander Street improvements are a go

Council votes to allow LIC amid misgivings surrounding voting system

Whitehorse city council voted to enact a local improvement charge (LIC) to cover a portion of the cost of repairing Alexander Street.

This section of the project focuses on Alexander Street between Second Avenue and Fourth Avenue and a portion of Third Avenue between Alexander Street and Black Street. A full reconstruction of the road utilities underneath Alexander Street is part of the city’s capital plan. Improvements will include the replacement of water and sewer mains, improved street lighting, new sidewalks, angled parking on both sides of the street and concrete gutters and curbs to improve drainage in the area.

The charge will affect 22 property owners, who will pay about $19,000 on average. The bill can either be paid in full or spread out over 15 years.

The amount an owner owes on an LIC is determined by the amount of street frontage, with residential and not-for-profit properties paying $633.33 per metre, commercial properties $1,266.67 per metre and government-owned properties $1,900 per metre.

While councillors stressed they wanted the project to go through, the vote did not proceed without some misgivings.

As it is required to do, the city sent out ballots to property owners so they could vote on the issue. But only two of the 22 responses were returned by the deadline on Nov. 2. Both responses were in favour of the LIC.

Under the Municipal Act, if the majority of property owners object to an LIC, then the city cannot proceed with it. Ballots which are not returned are technically counted as Yes votes, because an owner must actively vote No in order to have opposition recognized. Because of this system, the LIC is considered to be approved by property owners, even though only nine per cent of the total ballots sent out actually came back with any vote at all.

That didn’t sit well with some councillors.

Coun. Samson Hartland has objected to this system at past meetings. He said he wants to see a review of how the votes are tallied. Coun. Betty Irwin agreed.

“Like Coun. Hartland, I still have a problem with the LIC process. It bothers me that two people out of 22 people speak for the majority,” she said.

“We assume (unreturned) ballots as an affirmative response…. There must be some way to make this more fair to residents.”

Mayor Dan Curtis said he didn’t know how that would be possible, since the Municipal Act is territorial legislation.

The total budget for the project is $3.2 million, with $475,500 coming from the improvement charge.

Contact Lori Fox at Lori.Fox@yukon-news.com

infrastructureWhitehorse city council