EDITORIAL: No simple answer to encroachment woes

White Rock city council members found themselves facing a classic ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ situation last week as they debated how to handle residential encroachments onto city-owned land.

The infractions – discussed at council’s Nov. 18 meeting – range from a few plants sprucing up a boulevard to a property where the grass between the owner’s yard and the street had been paved over in its entirety, presumably to add parking spaces.

How to address the offending property owners became an issue of heated debate with one councillor telling PAN that he left the meeting “steaming.”

While all are breaking the same law, they are doing it to such varying degrees that settling on a single fair punishment to fit the crime is next to impossible. In the end, in a 5-2 vote, it was decided that grandfathering (unless the city has plans for the land) is the way to go.

While we understand the frustration of many that this situation was allowed to go virtually unchecked for years, it appears the current council has made a reasonable – if not particularly palatable – decision.

It’s estimated that as many as a quarter of the boulevards in White Rock have encroachments.

Pursuing redress for them all would involve considerable staff resources – at a cost to all tax payers, not just those who were ignorant of, or deliberately flouted, the rules.

As staff pointed out, many of the properties have changed hands since the original encroachment, which would put the city in the position of punishing good faith purchasers for something they clearly did not do.

That doesn’t mean that everyone should get a free pass, however. Some encroachments are obviously more egregious than others. In such cases (particularly where the offender is still in residence), the city would be well within its rights to take a more punitive stance.

The sad fact is that this particular horse left the barn a long time ago and all the city can do now is make sure that others don’t follow it.

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