It’s been seven years since a couple on Island Road started the process to subdivide their lot but after nearly 1,000 hours of time spent, they’re now unsure whether to pursue it.
Rob Parris and his wife Anita live at 592 Island Rd. Their driveway fronts off Earn Street, which also serves as a trail head to Anderson Hill Park. They’ve followed the steps laid out for them by District of Oak Bay staff including lot surveys and camera inspections of pipes that cross their property on an easement, they said.
The lot is 1,615 square metres (17,389 square feet). The current house would remain on a 10,000 square-foot parcel and a new 7,000 square foot parcel would be carved off the south half.
In November, they got their preliminary layout consideration from Oak Bay, a key document that outlines the final steps for the subdivision. It included an estimate for $300,000 in off-site service fees such as road widening and paving, trail development along Earn and Island roads, service upgrades, power pole siting, and landscape installation.
“I expected $100,000 or $130,000 but not $300,000,” Parris said. “We’re not developers, we’re just a couple trying to subdivide our lot.”
Municipalities charge offsite servicing fees to upgrade the roads and utilities fronting the property. They consider more cars, more sewage, and generally require upgrades as a condition.
The right to charge applicants for service upgrades is built into the B.C. municipal charter. Finding that balance of who is responsible for offsite servicing costs, the taxpayer base or individual applicant, is difficult, said Mayor Kevin Murdoch.
“The general understanding in B.C. is that the applicant who looks to profit from a subdivision or development is expected to cover a certain level of (associated) infrastructure costs,” Murdoch said.
Steve Rennick, Oak Bay’s manager of engineering services, said overall costs have increased in relation to the market but the district has not changed its approach. He confirmed it’s not uncommon for applicants in Oak Bay to pay as much as $400,000 for offsite servicing, though the numbers fluctuate based on needs.
Until 2017, the District of Oak Bay was actually losing money and service upgrades and had to adjust fees. It increased the set cost to connect to a sewer main (up to 10 metres) to $5,300 from $3,075 (for a 100 mm diameter pipe) and increased the set fee for a water connection to $5,770 overall for a 10-metre connection (19 mm diameter). But that’s only a piece of the puzzle in trying to recover the district’s costs, Rennick said.
“We try and give people an indication that this is what it will cost, labour, material, fuel, all going up, year after year,” Rennick said.
The Parrises also spent thousands putting a permanent, protective covenant on about 40 per cent of what would be the new lot, which Oak Bay asked for.
“We made a mistake getting it before having the subdivision done. That’s my mistake,” Rob Parris said.
“The main thing here is there is no appeal process, and we’d like better communication. We went through a long process only to be given a $300,000 bill at the end. I wish we knew that a long time ago.”
There’s also no chance to bring the case in front of council, who didn’t respond to a group email he sent, Parris said.
In the meantime, construction is underway a little further up Island Road where Amity Construction razed a 108-year-old house after abandoning a heritage revitalization agreement that would have protected it. That HRA was tied to the subdivision of one lot and house and a $427,000 estimate in service fees.
In a recent Saanich case, a couple convinced that municipality to let them install an infiltration ditch for their new home instead of a $300,000 fee to connect to a municipal stormwater pipe.
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