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Council sides with Salmon Arm couple on variance to waive trail contribution

Development of family home triggered financial requirement for proposed Heritage Trail
A Salmon Arm couple was successful with a variance application to waive a cash-in-lieu contribution towards a section of the proposed Heritage Trail that runs along their property located next to R.J. Haney Heritage Village and Museum. The contribution requirement was triggered by the building permit for their single-family home. (SD83 photo)

A Salmon Arm couple can build their home without having to contribute $31,462 towards a proposed trail bordering their agricultural property.

On April 8, following a lengthy public hearing, city council voted unanimously in support of a development variance sought by Brandon and Vanessa Micku. The couple wished to waive the required frontage upgrades triggered by the development permit for the construction of a single-family dwelling on their property at 251 Hwy. 97B NE.

The frontage upgrades referred to was a 200-metre section of the proposed Heritage Trail that would connect the neighbouring R.J. Haney Heritage Village and Museum to Little Mountain Park. The Micku’s were required to contribute financially towards the future greenway along 40th street NE, an undeveloped city right-of-way at the west end of the property. The contribution would go to a gravel pathway and bridging.

During the hearing, Brandon said the contribution was initially $16,000. However, during the process of applying for a variance, it jumped to $62,925.

At the April 2 development and planning services committee meeting, council supported dropping the amount to $31,462.50. If the trail is denied, the money would be returned to the Mickus.

Asked why the amount increased from $16,000 to $62,925, senior planner Chris Larson explained at the hearing that the initial amount was based on a linear rate of $80 a metre.

“Subsequently, through the city’s application to the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), we’ve been asked to provide more detailed estimates and specific details around what the water crossing would look like,” said Larson. “We got some estimates of what that bridging would cost. That information was provided to us just in the new year, so that is where the additional costs have been factored in.”

In 2021, the city applied to the ALC to support a portion of the trail running through agricultural land. The ALC later rejected the application but gave the city an opportunity to appeal. At the committee meeting, Larson explained that the appeal could be a different alignment or concessions to meet the concerns of the neighbours.

“This still doesn’t make any sense to us because again, the trail is denied, and the chance of being able to go through the pond, again, we feel it’s very slim,” said Brandon, referring to a water body at the west end of his property.

Brandon’s neighbour to the west, Ed Jespersen was one of the people at the hearing who spoke in support of the Mickus and the variance.

“I wish you guys to discuss this bylaw and consider amending it to stop placing other individual families in a position that they’re responsible for such extravagant amounts of money for city projects,” said Jespersen. “Next, I’d like you to patiently search for a more cost-effective route to complete this trail for the taxpaying citizen… Finally, I’d like you to please support the Micku family in this endeavour.”

Read more: Salmon Arm couple look to build home without bill for Heritage Trail

Read more: Heritage Trail request to help in ‘Cultural Bridge Building’ in Salmon Arm

Prior to council’s vote, Coun. Kevin Flynn, who noted at the committee meeting that he would support a full variance, said he recently visited the property. While a proponent of trails, he didn’t think any contribution amount was fair to the Mickus.

“In my opinion, the right way to connect Haney is along frontage road with a walking trail or sidewalk,” said Flynn.

Couns. Sylvia Lindgren and Tim Lavery were open to some contribution, with Lavery suggesting it could be up to $16,000.

Responding to questions of how the city could “ask a developer of a single house, who wants to build a house for his family, to contribute $64,000 for a trail,” Mayor Alan Harrison explained the city bylaw triggering this “cannot differentiate between whether it’s one lot being developed or 25.”

“That’s why you have the variance process,” said Harrison, who called the Micku’s situation “unique.” Because of the uncertainty around the trail’s location, Harrison said he would support the full variance.

Harrison also expressed his appreciation for input on the proposed trail route, even though that piece wasn’t on the agenda.

“We need to hear you as we’re doing the official community plan review right now,” said Harrison. “The second survey is going out the right way. That (trail) line in the OCP is going to stay there unless the community decides as a whole they don’t want it there. So it’s a perfect opportunity for people to express to us whether they think that’s a good spot or not because the community put that there in 2012 when they did the OCP. It’s a different time and I hear many of you say there’s got to be a better route.”

This story was updated with a correctionon Tuesday, April 16.

Lachlan Labere

About the Author: Lachlan Labere

Editor of the Salmon Arm Observer, Shuswap Market, and Eagle Valley News. I'm always looking for new and exciting ways to keep our readers informed and engaged.
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