By Andrea Arnold
The Village of McBride has issued a refund to the previous owners of three empty lots along Horseshoe Lake Road. The money covered all water and sanitary sewer charges for 455 Horseshoe Lake Road, the sanitary sewer charges for 275 and 295 Horseshoe Lake Road, as well as any penalties and portion of interest charged to these properties between 2017 and 2022.
This year, development on 455 was started by Steven and Andrea Garhammer in anticipation of moving a modular home onto it this summer. In March, a dig was performed by the Village of McBride Public Works staff to locate the water main for the purpose of their planning, and workers discovered that the line ends at the eastern edge of 295. Further investigation revealed that the sewage line ends short of 275 Horseshoe Lake Road. This means that the property at 455 does not have the ability to connect to either utility and the other two do not have access to sewer service.
The developers of 455 brought to the attention of Village staff that the owners of the other two properties should also be retroactively exempt from the billing. Village staff looked into the history of the properties and issued the utility fee refund along with a letter of explanation and apology to the property owners.
This stretch of road was not originally part of the Village footprint. It was amalgamated from the Regional District of Fraser Fort George in the mid 1990s. The Village passed a new bylaw between 2017 and 2018 stating that vacant lots with the ability to connect to the infrastructure would be subject to annual utility fees. There are maps created at that time by engineers that showed that the infrastructure reached the corner of the furthest lot along this stretch. This means according to the map that 455, and the other two lots, would be capable of connecting if someone wanted to develop the site.
Tupy said that, unfortunately, this situation has shown that the Village can not guarantee that everything is exactly as it is shown on maps provided by an outside source. The Village has reviewed its map distribution process and will be including a stamp that states “The information contained herein is for internal use only. Not to be relied on unless confirmed by site inspection and/or investigation.”
The site inspection is important as McBride Village bylaws state that any development on lots that do not have utilities service connection includes the cost of connections.
The Official Community Plan addresses the Village’s role in infrastructure installation. “It is the policy of Council to maintain and monitor the capacity of municipal infrastructure systems and carry out upgrading or extensions to these systems in accordance with future demands, as municipal finances permit.”
The Village staff welcome feedback from residents about any concerns they may have. They ask that this is done respectfully, and that they are given an opportunity to respond.
“If you feel there has been an error in your village based billing, please express your concerns to the Village and we will investigate,” said CAO Tupy.