Township reviews Local Area Service program

Amendments made to cost apportionment, preliminary petition process

Township residents petitioning for a water line down their street will now need 60 per cent approval from their neighbours, up from the 50 per cent threshold previously required.

That is just one of the changes being made in a revised Local Area Services and Business Improvement Policy, passed unanimously by council on May 29.

The Local Area Service (LAS) policy provides direction for completing LAS projects, which can range from sanitary sewer systems and water systems to street lighting and sidewalks. The process generally consists of staff determining the technical feasibility of a project, followed by a preliminary petition from residents, an official petition, construction, and finally, cost recovery. Depending on the type of project built, residents impacted will pay anywhere from 50 per cent to 100 per cent of the costs.

Township staff launched a review of the policy following recent concerns that the formula used to determine how much each homeowner will pay for the project — based on property frontage — was unfairly distributed, particularly between large farms versus commercial and industrial properties.

As a result of the review, the policy will retain taxable frontage as the best approach for cost apportionment, but with new amendments to address generally larger rural, and suburban residential properties. The minimum taxable frontage has now been changed from 15.24 m to 15 m for rural and residential properties, and non-residential properties. The maximum taxable frontage has been changed from 106.68 m to 61 m for rural and residential properties, and from 106.68 m to 105 m for non-residential.

Staff was also directed by council to look at panhandle lots, which have small frontages for access purposes, with the bulk of the lot located behind another lot.

The policy currently utilizes frontage, rearage and total perimeter of the lot to determine cost, and generally, panhandle lots pay about 15 per cent less than standard lots of similar size. However, service connection costs are usually much higher as the line has to run to the main part of the land at the back of the property. Therefore, staff are making no changes to the policy for these types of properties.

They also looked at the potential of allowing temporary property exemptions for those who cannot afford to pay their portion. Staff decided to not provide this option on the rationale that it would be difficult to come up with a fair way of administering; that this could open the floodgates to numerous exclusion applications; and that adding an excluded property at a later date would be difficult to do.

If an owner is facing financial hardship, there is the option to add their portion onto their municipal property taxes over a 20-year period or use the provincial property tax deferment program, if eligible.