Whitehorse city staff recommended council approve a bylaw to enact a local improvement charge (LIC) for the Alexander Street reconstruction project at the Nov. 6 standing committee meeting.
A full reconstruction of the roadway and utilities underneath Alexander Street has been scheduled in the city’s four-year capital plan. Proposed improvements 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.
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.
If enacted, the charge would affect 22 property owners in the area.
A public hearing on the LIC was held on Oct. 10. Senior planner Mike Ellis said one delegate showed up, but was neither for nor against the project and was only looking for more information.
The LIC passed first reading Sept. 25, at which time the city mailed out response forms to the property owners. Only two of the 22 responses were returned by the deadline on Nov. 2. Both response were in support of the LIC.
The way the city handles voting on LICs was one of the stumbling blocks in the failed Hillcrest improvement project earlier this year.
Under the Municipal Act, if the majority of property owners objects to an LIC, then the city cannot proceed with it.
Even though only two responses were in favour of the project — representing nine per cent of the total vote — because the other 91 per cent of the responses were not returned, the yes vote wins.
“With no written responses from benefitting property owners … objecting to the local improvement, council may proceed with the bylaw,” Ellis said.
That low response rate was a cause of concern for some councillors.
“As much as I want to see this project move forward,” said Coun. Samson Hartland, “I have a problem saying two people speak for the majority.”
Hartland called the way LICs are sometimes enacted “problematic.”
Coun. Betty Irwin agreed.
“I too still have a problem with how the Municipal Act (handles) voting (in LICs),” she said. “I don’t think it’s quite fair.”
If approved, property owners would pay the charge based on 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. Property owners could pay the entire amount upfront or amortize the cost over 15 years.
The median cost for property owners for the project would be about $19,000.
The total budget for the project is $3.2 million, with about $475,500 coming from the improvement charge.
Council will make the final vote on the LIC at the Nov. 14 regular council meeting.
Contact Lori Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org