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Council to rethink new encroachment policy

Aug 20th, 2010 | By | Category: Latest News, News

Council page

WELLINGTON city councillors have decided to listen to the concerns of rate payers and have another look at their proposed changes to road encroachment fees and sale policy.

In a large advertisement in the Dominion Post (above), the council says more than 180 written submissions were made to the council and 25 oral submissions heard, with the majority of people unhappy at the prospect of increased charges and the way council land sales would be handled.

Principal policy advisor Bryan Smith had originally planned to have a final report ready by the end of this month, the advertisement says.

“But because of the number of submissions and the complexity and importance of the issues…we think the analysis will take longer.”

The policy will be reviewed again later this year when further consultation will take place.

Meantime, some Wellington ratepayers fear streets will become more dangerous if the council brings in higher charges for those whose properties encroach on council land.

EncroachmentsMAIN2

ENCROACHMENT LAND: Lucy Goff on land rented from the council.

“Wellington is built on hills, and if ratepayers don’t maintain council land any more due to increased costs, then safety would be a big issue,” says Caryl Woodbridge of the Roseneath Residents Association.

At an oral submission to Wellington City Council, Caryl says hedges and fences may be taken out by residents if they have to pay a licence for land under 50 square metres.

“This may result in steep and dangerous areas left next to paths and roadways, leaving the council with a big bill for maintaining and keeping them safe.”

Council-owned encroachment land with fences and hedges under 50 sq m is currently exempt from rental charges, but under the council’s proposal this would be removed.

Councillor Andy Foster, who works on the council’s urban development portfolio, has sympathy with Caryl’s concerns.

“If you suddenly have to pay for that, then you could be hit with a fee of up to $600,” he says.

“So it’s a bit unfair and it makes sense to stick with current policy and not to charge for this type of land.”

Other council plans are to increase the licence fee for encroachments in comparison to the land value, but some ratepayers do not want to pay more.

EncroachmentsMAIN1

MISSING FENCE: Part of the fence has fallen down leaving steep drops.

Houghton Bay resident Lucy Goff  has only recently moved to her property and she does not want a big increase.

“We maintain the land and I think a flat rate is the fairest way to charge for these (encroachment) licences,” she says.

Mr Foster favours putting suburbs in groups based on property values.

“It makes sense. Those groups would have different rates, and it would mean that, say, Oriental Bay would not pay the same as, say, Makara.

“The policy has to be changed so as to make it fairer to all.”

Road encroachment policy covers council-owned land and airspace normally next to the road, where residents are allowed to use it to place a garage, a car deck and/or for balconies.

The council – which currently has around 600ha-650ha of road reserve not being used as roads – issues an annual licence for these purposes.

More than 180 people made submissions to the council on the proposed changes, and the main concerns were:

  • Safety, if land was no longer maintained.
  • Increase in fees based on property values.
  • Encroachments with hedges and fences would no longer be exempt from paying rental fees in the first 50 square metres of land.
  • Change in valuation process for balconies that overhang council land.

The council believes there are a number of areas where changes to current policy would make it clearer and fairer, with the fees charged reasonably reflecting the level of private use of public assets.

All submissions will now be considered and a final ruling made by the end of the year.

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