A 28-lot subdivision in the Hillcrest area in Salmon Arm has run into a hitch because of a city requirement to put Telus and BC Hydro lines underground. (City of Salmon Arm image)

A 28-lot subdivision in the Hillcrest area in Salmon Arm has run into a hitch because of a city requirement to put Telus and BC Hydro lines underground. (City of Salmon Arm image)

Salmon Arm developer questions city’s ethics in dispute over Telus lines

Resident objects to what he considers ‘afterthought’ requirement for utilities

Putting Telus lines underground on Auto Road brought up allegations around ethics at a recent Salmon Arm planning meeting.

Bob Nakazawa and his daughter Jacqueline attended the June 6 meeting regarding an application for a development variance permit that would waive the requirement to install Telecom lines underground.

In a March 11, 2022 email to the city, Bob Nakazawa asked for the variance, stating city engineers approved the subdivision design.

“We completed the approved final phase,” he wrote. “Then the city came back and stated they want us to put the Telus underground instead. This is going to be a significant financial loss for the subdivision and it has slowed my ability to complete the last homes we’re building. This does not appear to be a Telus or subdivision engineers mistake. This seems to be an afterthought of the city. This is not an appropriate financial burden to put on a small developer.”

According to the city planning report, the subdivision application for 28 parcels at 2371 Auto Rd. SE was submitted on Nov. 4, 2016. The subdivision has been going on for four years and is in its final stages.

The report says the city’s Letter of Conditions issued on Jan. 4, 2017 stated the site was to be serviced with underground electrical and telecommunications wiring.

The recent planning report concluded: “The City’s requirement for underground electrical and telecommunications wiring has been clearly stated, and Auto Road is an important arterial corridor within the community. Noting the City’s communication of the requirements, the need to provide expected levels of service aligned with the permitted density, while considering the development potential of the larger parcels in the area along the Auto Road corridor, staff recommend defeating the Motion.”

Kevin Pearson, the city’s development services director, said Mr. Nakazawa had bonded for the work required.

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Jacqueline spoke for her father at the meeting,

“It’s not that we believe this wasn’t communicated properly to us. My dad read the contract. The problem comes in, when we’ve gone through the approval process to have this done, and then get told afterwards, that this underground Telus needs to be put in. Something that could have been a $70,000 cost, is now going to cost my dad upwards of $250,000.”

She said she and her dad spoke to Telus, which provided several reasons why the underground service on Auto Road wasn’t on Telus’ final plan. One was that other subdivisions in the area still have aerial Telus.

“After he submits his plan and it’s approved and everything goes forward, and now the city engineers want this dealt with. It doesn’t even seem ethical to me to now come back and put this on a small developer…” Jacqueline said.

In response to a question from Coun. Kevin Flynn about the city not needing Telus line underground, Rob Niewenhuizen, the city’s director of engineering and public works, said the city has lots of subdivisions with Telus line underground and he was not aware of any concerns at this site.

Flynn added that while Bob is not in the business of developing lots, 25 lots is not a small development, it’s a major one.

Couns. Sylvia Lindgren and Debbie Cannon agreed.

Niewenhuizen said the hydro line is underground in the frontage of Auto Road.

Coun. Chad Eliason said he did a small infill subdivision in an older neighbourhood in Salmon Arm and was required to do underground servicing for the frontage, so he would support staff’s stance to deny the request to waive the underground servicing requirement.

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Flynn said he was bothered by the term ‘unethical’, and asked what could be more ethical than the city bonding someone – having them put down money to acknowledge future costs.

Jacqueline stood by the term.

“I really feel that my dad has done everything. We don’t disagree with the bond process… The reason we’re feeling it’s become a bit unethical is that all of you keep acknowledging somewhere this was missed. A mistake was made, someone who should have caught this, maybe in the approval process, missed it. Therefore this cost falls on the developer.”

She said she appreciates that council is willing to work with them and not have the entire boulevard pulled up.

Mayor Alan Harrison concluded the discussion.

He said he knows developing a subdivision is not easy, especially when you don’t do it regularly. He said Telus, BC Hydro and local engineering firms know what the bylaw says and work with it all the time.

“Clearly if there was an error made, it was not on the city’s part.”

Harrison added the lines along Auto Road need to go underground as they’re dangerous and don’t look good. An alternative would be to have the taxpayer pay for it.

“That would be right if the city made an error, but the city did not,” he said.

City council will make a final decision on Monday night, at council’s June 13 meeting.

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