Sechelt council has given the engineering department the go ahead to apply for funding from the province’s Active Transportation Infrastructure Grant Program to make improvements to the intersection of Highway 101, Wharf Avenue and Dolphin Street that have been on the district’s to-do list going back to the mid ’90s.
The full project envisioned in 1994 didn’t go through, but in 2015 the sidewalk was upgraded and the hydro lines buried along part of the east side of Wharf Avenue starting at Cowrie Street. In 2011, that work was completed all the way to the main intersection with Highway 101.
The west side of the avenue, however, has not yet seen any upgrades.
After a workshop with property owners in March of 2019, a design was drafted that calls for a two-metre-wide protected sidewalk from Dolphin to Cowrie, barrier curb and gutter, street lights, planters, and other beautification.
It also proposes a direct entry from Dolphin into the parking lot at 5561 Wharf, which is currently fully open to the road.
“I’m really happy to see this project finally moving forward,” Coun. Alton Toth said, but added he has concerns about whether the new design will make the intersection too tight for some of the large trucks that routinely turn left from the highway onto Wharf.
Mayor Darnelda Siegers, meanwhile, said she hopes it will be possible to convince MOTI to change its position on adding a crosswalk on Wharf between Dolphin and Cowrie Street, referred to as a “mid-block” crosswalk.
“We’re going to have lots of people jaywalking there,” Siegers said. “They do now.”
Director of engineering Sanath Bandara said although the grant application will go forward without that crosswalk, there is still a possibility it could be considered in the future.
The total project cost is estimated at $685,074 with 70 per cent coming from the potential grant.
Council voted Feb. 19 to use either gas tax funds or other grant opportunities to cover its 30 per cent share, or $205,523.
Bandara also said there is potential for $200,000 in funding from the Island Coastal Economic Trust through and application from the Sechelt Downtown Business Association.
One more year for sewer parcel tax refund
Councillors in Sechelt are asking the finance department to wait one more year before closing the door on potential refunds to property owners who were charged sewer parcel taxes in error nearly a decade a go.
The billing error, which followed the repeal of two bylaws in 2002, resulted in an estimated $352,000, plus interest, being collected between 2002 and 2014.
In 2015, when the error was discovered, the council of the day voted to provide a refund for affected property owners.
The issue of ending the refunds came up during a review of the year-end amendments to the financial plan bylaw at the Feb. 19 council meeting – a routine piece of business to ensure any changes made to the budget over the course of the past fiscal year are property reflected.
In a report to council, manager of financial services Ben Currie said several efforts have been made to identify those who might qualify for a refund, but there have been no new applications in the past three years.
Currie recommended council approve ending the refunds and transferring the remaining $116,222 set aside against the liability into back into revenue.
Coun. Matt McLean, however, said he felt the district should “do one last push. Give them one more year.”
Currie described the chance of anyone eligible for the refund who has not applied to collect it coming forward as “unlikely.”
Council decided Feb. 19 to postpone a final vote on zoning and Official Community Plan amendments for a property on Acorn Road in West Sechelt.
The owners have applied to create a new RR-3 zone that will allow the property to be divided into four lots with the potential for a main house, secondary suite and cottage on each.
The public hearing was held Feb. 5, but when the bylaws came up for third reading Coun. Matt McLean asked for the vote to be deferred because he had not yet had adequate time to review the public hearing reports and related correspondence. Councillors Brenda Rowe, Eric Scott and Alton Toth backed the request to defer.