By Pauline Kerr
When eight individuals address council as delegations on a specific issue, it’s a good indication there are strong feelings about it.
The Birchwood area trails issue is as tangled as the underbrush that has taken over parts of the disputed pathway – and been removed from other parts. The issue has led to confrontations that have turned physical. That’s one point council agreed on from the start – those confrontations have to stop.
The rest of the issue is still being negotiated.
The matter came before council in May, and involved an illegal driveway, two surveys that showed conflicting results, a historic trail that has had structures built on it to prevent public access, a storm drainage ditch that can be a safety concern, and an ongoing neighbour dispute.
At the end of the May meeting, the owners of the driveway were given 60 days, which became 60 business days, to sort out the problem. The time limit has passed, with no resolution.
The matter was brought back to council Aug. 4. Council heard from both sides.
There was a recommendation, that council direct staff to work with the owners of lots 41, 42 and 43 to address the boundary dispute, that a storm easement project between 197 and 201 Birchwood be included in 2022 budget deliberations, that if a piped stormwater solution is viable the public access between 207 and 209 Birchwood be conveyed to adjacent landowners, that staff work with property owners between 201 and 217 Birchwood to address existing encroachments, and that staff work with property owners to define a foot path from 201 Birchwood to Parkwood within the shoreline allowance.
After hearing the delegations and considerable discussion with Adam Weishar, public works, council passed a series of three resolutions that were fairly close to the recommendation.
“A physical altercation over a footpath. Wow.” Coun. Dorne Fitzsimmons sounded more mystified than sarcastic. But there was no mistaking his determination when he said, “Public property is public property” and he will not support anything that would encourage further encroachments.
Coun. Dave Cuyler was of a similar opinion, saying, “The altercations have to stop.” He did not support opening any more walkways to the lake until this matter is settled.
Coun. Bill Stewart, policy chair, divided the matter into three separate issues. The first is the driveway on lot 43. He wants to see public and private land clearly marked by the first council meeting in September. He noted the spokesperson for the family has said the situation should be resolved by then. The motion was voted on and carried.
The second issue is the boundary dispute involving lots 41 and 42. If the matter isn’t resolved by the end of September, “we will mark it using our survey,” said Stewart. “By Oct. 1 there will be a dividing line between public and private land.” That, too, was voted on and carried.
The third issue is the trail. “This should have been resolved 10 or 20 years ago,” said Stewart.
Council agreed with Weishar’s plan to work with property owners regarding sheds and gardens that encroach on public property.
Said Stewart, “Establish a pathway and report back to council.”
Deputy Mayor Randy Roppel phrased it a bit differently. “Establish the route and deal with encroachments after.”
The subsequent motion, to direct staff to establish a walkway between 201 Birchwood to Parkwood, carried.
Mayor Gerry Glover commented, “They’re separate issues but were put together,” which resulted in confusion.
The matter of the storm drainage ditch will be part of 2022 budget deliberations. Weishar said there is a considerable expense involved in building a culvert to safely pipe the water through to the lake.