The Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands council has unanimously passed a bylaw to update the private road grant policy.
Councillors adopted the measure during their committee of the whole meeting on Monday, held virtually.
Private roads are roads within the boundaries of the township that are not owned or maintained by the township and serve at least two different households.
In 2015, the township established the private road grant policy. The grant has historically been used as a mechanism to offset operational costs for residents living on private roads.
Many private roads within the township pose accessibility issues for emergency service vehicles and/or do not meet a typical standard for constructability or cross-section, council heard. While the current private road grant policy manages financial requirements effectively, it does not provide any parameters or expectations around emergency services accessibility or lane construction.
Staff recommended that council consider approval of an updated private road grant policy to address the identified concerns. Staff propose that the new policy take effect on Jan. 1, 2023.
The purpose of the updated policy is to address accessibility issues for emergency services as well as implement a standard for constructability or cross-section requirements for private roads.
"Many of these private lanes were originally established (for) seasonal residents only," said Mayor Corinna Smith-Gatcke.
"When being questioned on why we would be putting in turnarounds and those sorts of things, that could be the difference between getting a fire truck there in time or not, because if they miss your lane because your 911 number is not visible for whatever reason, or what have you, they need to be able to turn around and they don't turn around on a dime. Trying to incent taxpayers who live on these private lanes to do the type of work that would be helpful in the event of an emergency, whether it be a heart attack, fire or otherwise, that we could be there in as fast a manner as possible."
The updated policy proposes funding for capital improvement projects be limited to a maximum of 50 per cent of the total eligible costs and capped at a maximum grant of $5,000 per application. Each private road association would be limited to one application per year.
As a result, township staff anticipates that the budget for the private road grant program would need to be increased from the current amount of $25,000 to $50,000 annually to provide sufficient funding for capital projects.
Applications for operational or general maintenance projects would be considered on a per-kilometre basis as has been done historically, should remaining funds exist.
"By requiring additional turnarounds, rather than just at the end of the road, that saves our emergency vehicles from having to drive 6.4-kilometres before they can turn around," said township director of operations David Holliday.
The capital funds in 2022 ($25,000) have been allocated as per the existing private road grant policy. Additional funds will be proposed in the 2023 capital budget for this purpose.
As the incidence of seasonal residences transitioning to full-time on private roads increases, so does the need for emergency service access, Holliday's report reads.
The updated private road grant policy provides financial support and technical standards to support transition to enhanced private lanes being constructed to accommodate the current and future needs for township residents on private roads.
This transition will result in faster response by emergency services in all seasons.
"Private lanes are private property," Holliday said.
"If you don't want to maintain the lane to a standard, you wouldn't be accepted for the grant application."
(Keith Dempsey is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Brockville Recorder and Times. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.)
Keith Dempsey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times