During its Jan. 9 meeting Castor’s town council upheld a previous decision made by the Municipal Planning Commission (MPC).
In December, the MPC received a request to review a development application for a community business which wanted to build a wheelchair ramp and new entry-steps off the front of its building to make it more accessible.
The MPC initially declined the original request as approving the development would mean allowing the business to encroach on Town of Castor property. The proposed development would build over the existing sidewalk and boulevard as the business is already built right to the property line. Under MPC rules, the commission can’t approve a development to proceed on anyone’s property other than the developer’s own.
During the Jan. 9 meeting, the business owner and one of his staff members presented to council, asking for permission to encroach on town property and build the ramp, at the business’s full cost. Council considered the request after the owner and staff member left the meeting.
“I understand where they are coming from,” said Coun. Trudy Kilner.
“I just don’t feel it’s my decision to override the committee’s decision.”
Two concerns were brought forward with the potential approval of this project, one was setting a new precedent in the community, and two, the Town of Castor has long had a policy of not allowing encroachment on its property for liability reasons.
Interim-chief administrative officer (CAO) Donna Rowland noted that if council were to allow the development, with most commercial properties in town being built to the property line, council would be opening themselves up to further requests from other businesses.
Former Town of Castor CAO Christopher Robblee was contacted by Rowland during the meeting, with the permission of council, for his take on the situation.
According to Robblee, if council were to allow the development it could “no longer make the argument that they don’t allow encroachments onto their property,” and if another business were to make a reasonable ask the town would have no choice but to say yes due to the new precedent being set.
“At the end of the day, if we’re trying to promote business in Castor, I think it’s an absolute must we approve something like this,” said Mayor Richard Elhard.
Other councillors did not agree; councillors Cecil Yates and Kevin McDougall stood firmly opposed to the request.
“Any time an encroachment on town land was requested, it was denied,” said McDougall, wondering why this request should be different.
Yates ultimately motioned to uphold the MPC decision, denying the request for the development and the encroachment onto the town property. The motion was carried in a split vote.