Lake Waseosa RAtepayers’ Association
c/o 21 Cottage Lane, RR#3
Madam Mayor and Councillors of the Town of Huntsville,
The LWRA has been advised by our members residing on Fish Rock and Jingo Lake Roads that Town staff have unilaterally decided to cease maintaining these municipal assumed roads, and have posted signage indicating “Use at Own Risk”, in an apparent attempt to absolve the Town of responsibility for maintenance.
Traditionally, the unpaved surface has been graded twice per year with gravel added as needed. This level of maintenance was determined to be reasonable long ago (at least 20 years), when the road was only used during the “cottage” season and before any of the properties evolved into permanent residences. Now of course, some are occupied full-time and others are used on weekends year round. The roads see more traffic than in the past.
It appears to us that staff’s decision is based on the lack of a specified minimum standard for class 6 highways under O. Reg 239, as amended. While it is true that there is no detailed schedule, we note that the Town is still obligated to maintain these roads under s.44(1) of the Municipal Act:
“The municipality that has jurisdiction over a highway or bridge shall keep it in a state of repair that is reasonable in the circumstances, including the character and location of the highway or bridge. 2001, c. 25, s. 44 (1).”
It is of particular interest to note that the absence of a minimum standard removes the defence of meeting the specified standard that would otherwise be available to the Town under subsection 3. The Town is obligated to demonstrate that the state of repair meets the standard of “reasonable in the circumstances”.
In establishing what is reasonable, it is first necessary to consider the circumstances. In this case, circumstances include:
- an established historical need to grade the roadbeds twice a year
- increased use of the roads over time
- a municipal by-law restricting private citizens from maintaining the roadbeds themselves
- the roads are the only means of access to the properties, not only by residents but also including access by emergency services and waste management vehicles
- the short section of South Waseosa Lake Road, from the end of the paved surface to the terminus at the intersection of the three roads is still being maintained
It is also instructive to examine what is obviously not reasonable. It is not reasonable to conclude that a road will not deteriorate without maintenance. It is not reasonable to believe that the rate of deterioration will be reduced when use is increasing. It is not reasonable for residents to be effectively cut off from their homes and access to emergency services. It is not reasonable to expect residents to perform the maintenance on a municipal road, particularly in the face of penalties and fees that would be imposed by the Town as a result.
The residents of Fish Rock and Jingo Lake roads – and any other road similarly affected – are a benefit to the Town and contribute to the local economy. They chose to purchase those specific properties in part because they were serviced by a municipal road; their property values and assessments reflect that circumstance and it is reasonable to expect access to continue unabated.
For this case in particular, where the road grading equipment was already transported to the area, it is reasonable (and cost effective) to grade the short sections of Fish Rock Road and Jingo Lake Road at the same time.
It is the role of Council, not staff, to establish policy. We ask that council direct staff, in consultation with affected residents, to establish an acceptable maintenance regime for Class 6 municipal highways that can satisfy the obligations of the Town under s44 of the Municipal Act.
On behalf of the Board of Directors of the LWRA,