Unfinished Business

Introduction by Garth Henderson,

Article by Jason Martin

The following submission from a local homeowner should raise a few eyebrows among engaged Turner Valley tax payers about how the town continues to conduct its affairs. This story is a clear illustration of how the current town administration chooses to respond (or not) to lingering problems with residential developments. These are legacy issues stemming from imperfectly executed and administered land development deals struck between the town and various project developers over the past 15 years.

The town’s Municipal Development Plan (MDP) and associated bylaws were introduced in 2004.  Since then there has been a litany of questionable land deals, debatable relaxation of rules and guidelines, developer bankruptcies and ownership flips. We’ve seen faulty infrastructure installations, interminable delays in project completion, repairs to damaged public property bogged down in ownership confusion. Among other things, we have reaped the consequences of inadequate, non-existent or loosely administered security bonds on poorly formulated deals.

What is concerning about these developer related issues is that they display a pattern of inadequate oversight, administrative missteps and arguably inept implementation of MDP policy. There may be other sides to the story below but in large part, it fits the pattern of demonstrated administrative laxness.  (It is perhaps telling that at one point the town planner is asking the homeowner for copies of property reports that cannot be located in town files.)

The sad fact is that reparation costs stemming from these inadequately administered development deals always accrue to the tax payers. In this particular case, the homeowner followed the existing regulations and codes constructing the house and garage.  A succession of developers did not deliver critical elements of the original subdivision plan (notably the back alley and sidewalks) and escaped accountability. Now the homeowner, without access to his garage, is being given the straight arm by current administration. He is being put on notice that they will do nothing more for him. Not their problem. Is this respectful treatment? Is this taking ownership of problems arguably caused by administrative shortcomings in controlling a succession of developers for the property in question? Is this effective implementation of the Municipal Development Plan? You be the judge. Read the account below.

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Unfinished Business

                Have you ever wondered what is going on with the development on the north end of town? Why the house at the end of Anderson Crescent looks like it is stuck between suburbia and the Gaza Strip?

                This land was owned by Developer Nathan Jones who, in 2007, was elected as a new member of the town council. In 2009, while serving his term in office, Nathan received approval of the first phase of his development, named Sky Mountain Developments. It consisted of 3 large lots at the end of Anderson Crescent with a back alley. Soon after this approval the original design was changed to postpone the construction of the back alley until the development of phase 2, although the lots were still marketed as having back alley access. Furthermore, the securities held by the town for the Phase 1 Development was reduced from $150,000 to $30,000, which is $20,000 less than the $50,000 minimum that was set in the development agreement.

                Construction started immediately and in July 2009 construction completion certificates were issued by the town for the sidewalks, curbs and gutters. Then in July 2011 final acceptance certificates were issued and the securities held by the town were returned to Nathan Jones.

                Soon after the purchase of our lot in 2013 from a private sale, we contacted Nathan. He assured us that in 2014 phase 2 would commence and we would see the build of the back alley and roadway/gutter system bordering our lot to the west.

                In 2014 we worked with our builder to meet all requirements set forward by the developer and the town to build our home which included a detached garage with access from the back alley. We completed and moved into our home in the spring of 2015.

                By the spring of 2015, the phase 2 of the development had not yet commenced, therefore we contacted the town regarding the incomplete road and sidewalk on the south side of our lot, the main access point to our lot and house. The town responded that all the outstanding road and sidewalk that borders our lot would not be completed until Phase 2.

                In the summer of 2015 Nathan sold the Phase 2 Sky Mountain Development lands to Lee Mahar Engineering and moves off the property, as he had been living in the home associated with the original property. This home then sat vacant and eventually became derelict due to vandalism and improper management.

                In the summer of 2017, with no advancement on the phase 2 development, Lee Mahar sold the property to Black Valley Developments. This young local company is eager to complete the phase and starts and continues groundwork until freeze up of that year.

                In the spring of 2018, the town gives the go ahead for the development to continue. Although by mid-summer it was evident that the town had not done their proper background work, as the approved development plans interfered with a present abandoned well as well as wrongfully encroached on the creek. The town’s “due diligence” neglected to ensure that proper set backs and permits had been obtained by the developer prior to the commencement.   

In June of 2018 we attended a town council meeting to request action regarding the sidewalk and front roadway. The town council directed administration to complete the outstanding Phase I sidewalk, approximately 20’, by Sept 30, 2018.

In August 2018, town employees installed approximately 8’ of sidewalk. When we inquired to the town planner, currently Gerry Melanka, we were told that they would not be installing anymore sidewalk as they do not want to pay for it to be surveyed. (See attached email) He also stated that he has mentioned to and encouraged the new developer to fence off the laneway and deny access to our and the other phase I lots.

Shortly after, we received an email from the town CAO, Todd Sharpe, telling us to no longer contact the town about these matters. (see attached email)

                The situation currently sits as such; we are paying full taxes on a property that does not have a completed sidewalk in the front, nor does it have legal access (and soon may not have any access) to the rear of the lot and garage. As well, because the phase II development land are not up to proper elevation, it eliminates the possibility of fencing in our back yard to keep our young children safe from the construction and excavations that are right beside us without paying thousands in surveying and groundwork costs.

At this point the town administration, when they return our phone calls or emails, have told us to “not worry about it”, “stop complaining” and “not to contact them further”.

We are at a loss at this point as to how to work with the town when they are refusing to work with us. Our concerns at this point are that; we are paying taxes for infrastructure that we do not have, we are unable, without significant financial loss, to secure the safety in our yard, in addition to the fact that we have been advised by a Real Estate Paralegal that this is affecting our property value and may limit or eliminate our ability to sell if we needed to.

So, we sit here, drinking our morning coffee, looking out our dining room window and wondering just when we will be surrounded by new neighbors and not by this dust bowl.

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The PDF documents relating to this article are embedded below. Some are multiple page documents. These documents add a significant amount of supporting information.

CAO-response-email-R1

site-visit-email

completion-certificate

final-acceptance-certificate

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