Joel Krahn/Yukon News file Whitehorse City Hall.

Cook Street property owners could be charged for road and water improvements

Whitehorse City Council is considering a local improvement charge

Whitehorse City Council was asked by administration to consider a bylaw which, if passed, would charge a total of $485,000 in local improvement charges (LIC) to Cook Street property owners.

Cook Street “is identified for full reconstruction of the roadway and deep utilities,” Taylor Eshpeter, manager of engineering services for the city, told council at the March 18 standing committees meeting.

The project extends from Fourth Avenue to the escarpment. That area needs the water and sewer mains replaced to meet increased usage and to be brought up to code.

The water services also need to be replaced to meet frost protection standards and improve efficiency in water distribution, he said. The project will also improve landscaping and street lighting, add in sidewalks and angle parking, improve drainage through the addition of concrete curbs and gutters, and resurface the asphalt on the road.

“By replacing aging water and sewer infrastructure on Cook Street the project will contribute towards meeting sustainability goals by reducing the amount of water wasted,” Eshpeter said.

The work is scheduled to begin as early as spring 2020 and will cost $7.4 million, all of which – with the exception of the $485,000 administration is being asked be generated through the proposed LIC – will come from the capital budget, city reserves or federal funding.

The federal funding has not yet been approved yet but the project meets eligibility for the Investing in Canada Plan he said.

The proposed LIC cost for residences and not-for-profits is $645.52 per metre of frontage, $1,291.04 per metre for commercial buildings and $1,936.56 per metre of buildings owned by the government.

Overall, individual bills could range from From approximately $8,000 to nearly $23,000. Owners have the option to amortize these costs over a 15 year period or pay them all up front.

The LIC process was begun by the engineering department July 25, 2018, with letters sent of affected property owners, Eshpeter said. There was an open house and an online survey to provide information and collect feedback on the project and “follow-up by phone… (for) property owners who had not responded to either of these opportunities,” he noted.

“In general, feedback has been positive,” Eshpeter said.

Coun. Samson Hartland pointed out that LICs have been “challenging” for council in the past. In May 2017, residents of Hillcrest voted down a controversial LIC for their neighborhood which would have seen the average homeowner shelling out $15,000 to pay for the proposed repairs.

Coun. Steven Roddick wanted to know what would happen if the LIC were not to pass, but the area continued to need these important repairs.

“It should be noted that the LICs are solely a financing source used for reconstruction projects. Council has the option to proceed with the project without using LIC charges as a source of funding but would need to amend the budget (to make up the difference),” Eshpeter added.

Roddick noted that was, in his opinion, a positive, as it meant the city wasn’t “handcuffed” to the process.

Council will put the matter to a first reading vote at the March 25 standing committees meeting.

If they vote in favour of the LIC bylaw, notices will be mailed out to property owners March 27, followed by a public hearing April 23.

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

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