By Cole Parkinson
With delegations making their way to Municipal District of Taber council chambers requesting locked gates on roads heading toward dead ends, councillors went over their options once again.
During the M.D.’s policy meeting on June 4, council discussed how willing they were to allow locked gates on their rural roads.
As they have had a few requests to do so, council had yet to make any firm decisions on the matter.
“We’ve had requests to put up gates along road allowances in a couple of places. Staff is looking for some direction on that,” said Reeve Brian Brewin.
Council was mostly in favour of not allowing it on their roadways as gates could potentially cause more problems, even if placing them was warranted by the party asking for permission.
One potential issue they saw with adding gates was the added possibility of people crashing into them.
“I’m not really in favour of it, just for the sake everyone has their own definition of a gate. Some might use four-inch wood posts on the side with a steel gate and the next person uses an eight-inch pipe. If someone comes along and hits it, it wouldn’t be good,” said Coun. Leavitt Howg via teleconference call.
Upon inspection of neighbouring municipalities, Coun. Tamara Miyanaga discovered they have been adopted by a handful.
One example used was Cypress County, which charges a fee to apply for restricting road access and allows them on a case by case basis.
The prior delegations requesting restricting access had done so due to the roads leading to a dead end and ending on their property.
“If you’re on a dead-end road that goes down a coulee or a lake, it’s different from in the middle of the road. I could be in favour of this if it’s on what would normally be a dead end road or pasture. In all honesty, if you drove from here to Barnwell and tried to get down to the river, there isn’t a road there that isn’t locked. It’s because of traffic and partying and everything else,” added Brewin.
Others echoed Brewin’s views on not restricting access.
“Mostly, I’m not in favour of closing roads. I know the ones who have approached us have serious concerns with damage. I don’t know if there are other things we can help with. Maybe we should leave ourselves open to look at them at a case by case basis because I know since I’ve been here, we have closed one road that I can think of,” said Deputy Reeve Merrill Harris.
With the knowledge of roads having locked gates on them on M.D. road allowances, council was quick to point out they would want to bring all under compliance with whichever way they decided to go.
The problem becomes locating all restricted roads and figuring a way to sort through which would be warranted.
“Whatever we do, whatever is happening now needs to be brought into compliance. Whether it’s not allowing restricted or having a case by case basis. I know that’s a whole lot of work but we need to set the direction to be consistent,” said Coun. Jen Crowson.
With limited enforcement resources over a large region, some on council wondered about who’s problem it would become to remove the already in place barriers.
Council only had a rough guess of how many gates would potentially be placed and they would add up quickly across the entirety of the M.D.
“There would be 20 padlocks between here and Barnwell, maybe 15. Are you going to start cutting them?” asked Miyanaga. “I worry it becomes our job to take them all down.”
With the gates and trespass signs that have already been placed across M.D. roadway, council questioned the legality for those wanting to access past the locked portion.
In these situations, M.D. administration says the public has full legality to negate the gates or signs in place on M.D. owned roads.
“The public has unrestricted access on municipal road allowances. Even though there is a trespass sign there, they can legally cut the gate and drive through. There is no right of control on government road allowances unless the road allowance has been closed,” said CAO Derrick Krizsan.
Krizsan also advised council that moving forward a policy would be the only way to approach restricting access.
“The complication becomes a part of the legal review of this issue. There is no statute that allows municipalities to restrict access, it would have to be a policy,” he said. “Any policies for right of ways will be legitimate until challenged. Perhaps the way to look at it is, along with the ability to restrict access for whatever reason it is, include within that same policy that you need signage to show it’s a dead end and a sign on who to contact for access.”
Brewin was interested in exploring other possibilities while still allowing gates in certain circumstances.
“Maybe that’s the compromise, you can put a gate across but you can’t have a lock,” he said.
Council eventually decided on proposing a motion for administration to work on a policy to allow gates without locking them at the end of dead roads. The motion passed with a 4-3 vote as councillors Crowson, Murray Reynolds and Harris all voted against.