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NEWS

NOTICE - Use of City Property

June 11, 2014

There has been considerable discussion recently regarding a decision of City Council to regain city property which is being utilized by other residents. This problem was brought to Council’s attention by Administration last year. 
The problem that has occurred is that buffer strips, boulevards and other City property has been used for the storage of R.V.’s, vehicles, boats and other miscellaneous items by adjacent property owners for years. In addition, gardens have been developed, parking areas have been created or areas have been fenced or cordoned off to create private areas for the individual residences. This has existed for over 40 years in some areas of the City and it is apparent that it is starting to move to other areas. It seems that year after year, more and more residents are moving items onto City property for storage or using the property for their own purposes. The problem is growing rapidly and the City needed to address the issue sooner than later. 
The City is constantly developing new areas with buffer strips and boulevards. A buffer strip is a piece of public land located between two pieces of property that may not have compatible uses. For example, a buffer would be located between residential property and a roadway or between a residential zone and a commercial zone. A boulevard is typically located between your private property and the street. The boulevard is City property and is where the city will place their street signs, fire hydrants, water shutoff valves, sidewalks, etc.  
It is extremely difficult for the city to enforce a bylaw to remove an item from a buffer strip or city owned land when someone else in the city has been using said city property for years. City Council saw the dilemma staff was faced with in trying to enforce bylaws consistently throughout the city. It is the job of the city to be as fair as possible to all residents particularly when it comes to enforcing of the bylaws. 
As a result, a public meeting was held on April 3, 2014 to discuss what would happen if the City took back control of their property. It was well attended and considerable discussion was had by those in attendance. One of the key items that came out of this meeting was a concern regarding liability. The city investigated the liability issue and it was determined that if the City knew that an activity was occurring on their property, did nothing about it and an incident occurred, the City could be held liable.  As an example, there are a number of residents exiting/entering Shadd Drive through the ditch which is in violation of the City bylaw.  The City determined that they had to take action to correct this situation as well as other issues throughout the City. 
As a potential compromise, the City did research whether it would be feasible to sell or lease property to individuals along McDonald Ave. and Shadd Drive due to residents from these particular areas expressing concern over the potential of having to vacate city property. OnMay 6, 2014, a Committee of the Whole meeting was held to discuss this and review the options provided by Administration. An option for sale and/or lease of the property along with the potential for individual garden spots was discussed. However, after considerable discussion, the consensus of City Council was that the bylaws are to be enforced consistently throughout the City. As an alternate to garden plots, the City would be developing community gardens. Furthermore, it was recommended that a plan for this area be incorporated into the City’s strategic planning happening later in the year.
Therefore, those individuals who are occupying city property must vacate the property by September 30, 2014. Presently Shadd Drive, Hornby Drive, Caskey Drive, Kennedy Drive, 100 block of Babington, Columbia Drive (west side), Sunset Crescent, 5Th Avenue, 200 block and Stepney Avenue area residents were sent notices However, these are not the only affected areas of the City as this problem extends to other City property and lots for sale. 
In a recent notice sent out to affected property owners, it advised that they are to remove all items, structures, accesses, vehicles, garden produce, etc. from the City property by September 30, 2014. This also includes any shrubs or trees that they wish to retain. After that date, the City will remove any remaining items and assume all aspects of care for the property. 
It should be noted that the City has no intention, at this time, of clearing the trees, shrubs, etc. from the property in their entirety. The city will assess what trees, shrubs can be salvaged and what can potentially fit into an orderly and aesthetic tree planting program. Furthermore, the City will assume maintenance of these areas and, needless to say, will likely have to remove some trees to ensure that proper maintenance can be carried out accordingly.
In addition, the city will be enforcing their bylaws to ensure that other occupiers of city property remove their items in a timely manner.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Director of Works & Utilities Gerald Gilmore at g.gilmore@cityofmelfort.ca .

Michael Hotsko, RMA
City Manager

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