A petition to pave a portion of Alfred Avenue is going ahead. (Marisca Bakker photo)

Alfred Avenue paving project to go to voters

Smithers Town Council torn with who should pay for the paving project

Two blocks of Alfred Avenue may get paved in the near future, but council has decided to let the taxpayers decide if they should be on the hook for a large percentage of it.

After a very lengthy discussion at the regular council meeting May 24, all but one councillor chose to move forward with plans to proceed with the 3200 and 3300 blocks of the Alfred Avenue Proposed Local Area Service (LAS) Road Construction Project with the town paying for 75 per cent and the homeowners covering the remaining 25 per cent.

The section of Victoria Drive from Alfred Avenue to the lane is also included in the project as it is also currently undeveloped and is a required connecting street.

The landowners on the avenue petitioned for this project. The last successful petition for a paving project was in 2012 on Second Avenue.

It is common for projects like this to be covered 50/50 between the town and the landowners, but the problem with this particular project is that there is Crown land on one side of the road.

The Province is exempt from paying taxes and the LAS is a form of taxation so the Crown lands aren’t included on the LAS petition. But someone has to pay the province’s share.

The current construction cost estimate is $1,72 million. The Town’s 75 per cent share of that is $1,3 million, leaving $431,276 for the fronting property owners to cover.

However, final costs to the owners and the Town are based on completed, actual costs. The Town has typically paid its capital costs portion of LAS projects by long-term borrowing, with the financing costs affecting annual operating budgets.

The Town’s long-term borrowing rates are currently 3.65 per cent for the first 10 years and up to 3.97 per cent beyond that. Council discussed a 20-year loan.

Councillors were torn between building infrastructure for possible housing in the future and taking on more debt. In the end, council decided, with Coun. Frank Wray dissenting, to proceed with the project but because of the amount the Town needs to borrow, taxpayers have to sign on.

They then made a motion asking staff to report back with the best possible way to get voters’ voices on the matter. It will either be a referendum or alternative approval process.

Staff will also have to report back on when this can happen and if it makes sense to do it during the municipal election in the fall.

If the project proceeds, and after all the approvals, the contract would be tendered and work could start as early as spring-summer 2023.

Until those two blocks of Alfred Avenue are constructed, town staff will continue to deny development and building permit applications because the lane does not comply with current primary access standards in both the building and fire codes.

Smithers council