City council cut a downtown developer a break by turning a blind eye to an encroachment concern raised by staff.
At Monday’s council meeting, city development services director Corey Paiement explained how developer Bill Laird’s project on Hudson Avenue and Alexander is currently encroaching into the city’s rights of way by two inches. He reminded council that an encroachment agreement already exists between Laird and the city for overhangs and canopies, allowing them to encroach into the city’s road right of way up to 32 inches. The new encroachment, however, relates to the upper phase of the building structure itself. Paiement said it was staff’s recommendation that the encroachment agreement be updated, so as to provide legal protection for the city.
Given an opportunity to speak on the matter, Laird was indignant over having to spend time fussing over two inches. He explained the building was surveyed and is within property lines, and that the encroachment relates to the Styrofoam trimming that gives the structure its tudor-style look. He admitted to being technically at fault, but also frustrated to have to address the matter when and encroachment agreement already exists.
“I tend to do things as well as I can, and I’m very frustrated in our society today when we find ourselves in a situation like this when we even have to talk about it,” said Laird. “I don’t shy away from these opportunities. I have the utmost respect for the staff here and what they have to do. But also I think as a society we have to be a little bit wiser about what we do with our time and what we expect everybody to spend their time on.”
Coun. Debbie Cannon asked what it would cost Laird to update the encroachment agreement. He guessed between $500 to $1,000.
“It isn’t much money, sort of like the two inches,” said Laird.
All of council was sympathetic with Laird, and critical of how municipal “rules” don’t always make sense.
“Staff is only doing what they have to do,” said Alan Harrison. “On another note, the buildings that you’ve built downtown are fantastic. They look amazing, they improve our downtown…So, I think sometimes we have to do stuff, we plug our nose and do it and look at the big picture and the good work you’ve done down there.”
Cannon called squabbling over two inches “ridiculous,” before offering her own praise to Laird and his development. Coun. Kentel concurred, and asked if the rules should be changed?
“Sometimes it gets to the point where I think we’ve got too many rules and some of it is ridiculous, and this is one of the ones that I think is… I understand you have to do what the rules say, but at the same time, I just think that it’s overkill,” said Kentel.
Only Couns. Harrison and Ken Jamieson were in favour of staff’s recommendation and the motion was defeated.