A group of residents in a relatively new Parksville subdivision claim the city is in violation of its own bylaws — and possibly in violation of provincial legislation — by failing to maintain parkland within the subdivision.
The city, meanwhile, said the property was never intended to be part of the city’s parks portfolio, and for the city to take on the work of maintaining the small green space could negatively impact maintenance at higher-priority parkland.
Residents Karen Charlesworth and Brian Hartwig appeared as a delegation before council at its Feb. 5 regular meeting, to seek remedy for a green space that has become overgrown with invasive and other weeds and grasses and presents a fire hazard in the subdivision each summer.
The property is located in the Cedar Ridge development, between Parklink Place and Retegno Avenue.
“The Cedar Ridge development’s parkways and walkways are not maintained to an acceptable standard,” said Charlesworth, a former elected official in the Comox Valley who has relocated to Parksville. “The City of Parksville may be in violation of Bylaw No. 1383, the maintenance of real property (and) may be in violation of the provincial legislation, the Weed Control Act of B.C.”
Charlesworth said residents are concerned about the threat of fire to adjacent homes from grasses and weeds that grow to six and seven feet tall in dry summer conditions, health and safety danger to children from thorns, stinging nettles, etc., and weeds and noxious plants spreading to neighbouring properties.
Chief administrative officer Debbie Comis said the green space was intended to be allowed to grow in a “natural” state.
“When this development was created, there was a development permit put in place,” said Comis. “There was a ‘new’ form of landscaping created under the development permit that was supposed to be low-maintenance and have as low an impact as possible on the city itself, because the city wasn’t accepting additional parklands. The reason it wasn’t developed as a traditional park was to reduce the maintenance costs.”
Vaughn Figueira, the city’s director of engineering and operations, said a previous council established a three-tiered priority structure for maintenance of the city’s parklands, with Community Park taking precedence, followed by the city’s other community parks. The “outer” parklands, much of them undeveloped properties, are last in line.
Asked if the 1.5 full-time equivalent parks positions included in the provisional 2018 budget, a result of the city’s purchase of the Ermineskin lands, could free up resources for maintenance at Cedar Ridge, Comis said, “There may be some positive impacts on our outer parks in time, but I can’t guarantee that.”
Coun. Leanne Salter wondered why the Ermineskin parkland, which is intended to be left in a natural state, would take priority over a development green space. She forwarded a motion that the city maintain the Cedar Ridge parkland, but failed to get a seconder and the motion died.
“Ermineskin is a natural park, and Cedar Ridge is a very heavily developed area now,” said Salter. “When I look at resources and who would be impacted by not cutting grass, they don’t even compete.”
Coun. Teresa Patterson said the developer of the subdivision “did a disservice” by designating the property parkland because it was never going to be maintained. She introduced a motion to refer the question of maintenance to staff for review.
Patterson’s motion carried, with Salter and acting Mayor Kirk Oates, sitting in for the absent Marc Lefebvre, opposed.
The Cedar Ridge residents said their trouble with the property is compounded by the fact that the city will not allow residents to perform the maintenance themselves.