The District of Sparwood is asking residents to remove encroachments on District greenbelts and parkland.

What is an encroachment?

An encroachment means any type of object or item of personal property which exists wholly upon, or extends from a person’s premises onto, public lands. This includes, but is not limited to: fences, sheds, additions, garages, vehicles, recreational vehicles, and travel trailers. 

Why do we care?

Our predecessors who laid out the residential areas in Sparwood were very thoughtful in providing greenbelts, buffers, pedestrian linkages and park space so that many houses are not back to back and a trail network can be developed. These are aspects of our community to be treasured, as they do not exist in most places where developers would have been reluctant to give up land where another lot could be created.  These public spaces form great connectivity for pathways and trails, accessible from the back door. 

Over the many years where these spaces exist, there has been a gradual creep by adjacent lot owners into that public space. An encroachment means any type of object or item of personal property which exists on or extends from a person’s premises onto public lands. This includes, but is not limited to fences, accessory buildings, fire pits, vehicles, and recreational vehicles.

Municipal lands are owned by everyone and should be for everyone’s enjoyment. As stewards of public lands, we must act on issues of trespass when we become aware of them. The matter of public property being used as private property (either knowingly or unknowingly) is of particular concern to the District. The District of Sparwood has the responsibility to protect its parks, open space/greenspace and public reserves to ensure that they are used and enjoyed by all residents as originally intended and developed.

What are the Zoning Bylaw definitions?

Parks and Recreation Zone: Provides for sites for public and private parks and recreation purposes.  This includes indoor and outdoor natural and human made amenities, as well as undeveloped lands that contribute positively to the human and natural environment.

What if we do not deal with encroachments?

Recent court cases have weighed in favour of adverse possession when it predates 1975. The District could lose title to the land if we permit others to ‘possess’ or occupy the land for an extended period of time.

We bear ethical and legal responsibility to steward these lands. Past experience in failing to do so properly has imposed land reclamation costs on the municipality.

There is potential liability to the public accessing these lands wherein encroachment has occurred.

What if I want to clear hazards I see in greenbelts or parks?

Please call our office at 250.425.6271 if you see something in our greenbelts or parks that looks like a hazard and we will review it. Please do not personally maintain parks and greenbelt areas. 

Please keep in mind that maintenance of the boulevard (the lands owned by the District of Sparwood and situated between private property lines and roadway curbs and gutters) is the responsibility of the property owner or tenant to maintain as per the Boulevard Maintenance Bylaw.

What is the District's view on encroachments?

When the municipality becomes aware of the existence of an encroachment that extends beyond a resident’s private property boundaries onto a public road right-of-way, a public property such as a park or other District owned land, removal of the encroachment is required. Alternatively, the owner wishing to use that land may request to purchase those lands and consolidate with their lot.

The property owner may submit a written request to the Planning Department for the encroachment to be reviewed by the District. Please review the Municipal Land Disposition Policy prior to submitting a request.

If upon review the District has no objections to the encroachment, the property owner may purchase the land from the District. In this case, a disposition of land as per Section 26 or 27 of the Community Charter must be undertaken.

If the District does not consent to a purchase of land, the property owner must remove the encroaching structure within a reasonable timeframe and repair and renew all portions of the right-of-way, public property or District owned land which may at any time be damaged, to the satisfaction of the District at the cost of the property owner. 

What if the encroachment existed before I bought this house?

Awareness of property lines when buying or selling your home is important.  An encroachment is tied to the lands and follows ownership of the property, regardless of how long it has been there or who placed it there.  Being knowledgeable of where your property lines are located will avoid unknowingly placing items outside of your property or inheriting an existing encroachment. 

How much does an encroachment cost?

If proper authorization is not obtained by the homeowner, fines ranging from $125 - $500 can be issued and if the property is not brought into compliance legal action may be taken.

If a request for an encroachment is to be considered by the municipality, there is a process for disposition that must be followed and includes public notice.  If at the end of that process the municipality agrees to sell the land, it must do so at fair market value.

I bought my house and that encroachment was already there, do I still have to move it?

Yes. As a prospective purchaser you should find out where boundaries are. Real estate agents have an ethical imperative to accurately represent properties they are dealing with.

Is landscaping okay?

We are not asking residents to remove soft landscape elements, however we are informing them that the District may remove them at any time if needed.

Will I get a fine if I don’t move my stuff by May 1, 2018?

As with other enforcement endeavours, our goal is compliance, sooner rather than later. On a case by case basis, work with property owner to achieve compliance in reasonable timeline. If you are having problems meeting the deadline, please contact staff as soon as possible.

Need more information?

Contact the Planning Department at 250.425.6271 or email sparwood@sparwood.ca.