Pilot Butte orders residents to fix backyards less than a year after letting them make changes

Click to play video 'Pilot Butte residents plan cease and desist order over backyard drainage issue' Pilot Butte residents plan cease and desist order over backyard drainage issue
In 2017 the Pilot Butte changed regulations, allowing residents to begin construction in an easement, but at a town hall meeting this week they reversed course – Jun 13, 2018

Three years ago, residents on the 700 block of 3rd Avenue in Pilot Butte couldn’t develop their backyards – the result of a city easement that called for a drainage ditch to run through them.

In 2017, the town changed its mind, allowing development, but at a town hall meeting this week, they reversed course.

READ MORE: Pilot Butte homeowner considers lawsuit over backyard drainage ditch

“We went to a town meeting and they just said ‘dig a swale,’” Dallas Bast, one of the affected homeowners said.

In a statement, the town said they were upholding a resolution from 2017. In the minutes from their council meeting on June 10, a motion was passed that stated:

“The residents of 700 block 3rd Ave be permitted to continue landscaping thier rear yards i) as long as water continues to flow from East to West and the drainage swaler performs as designed, ii) that properties to the South are not affected and iii) with the understanding that the Town shall have access to the properties in the event that corrective action be necessary.”

Story continues below advertisement

This winter, those properties were affected.

“Last year I had, from snowmelt and so forth, I had some water issues, and my wife’s shed is buried probably 8 inches to ten inches underwater,” Ken Bernaski, one of the neighbours to the south of the 3rd Avenue residents, said.

“We all had issues with water coming into our yard, and could’ve had more damage done to it than what was damaged,” Bernaski continued, referring to his neighbours who also live downhill of 3rd Avenue.

But residents on top of the hill said they weren’t aware of a clause protecting the homes opposite them. Letters sent from the town office informing them of the new regulations also omit that detail.

A letter issued from the town of Pilot Butte to affected residents on 3 Avenue.
A letter issued from the town of Pilot Butte to affected residents on 3 Avenue. Supplied Photo

Now, they have 90 days to return the easement to its original state.

Story continues below advertisement

“We moved in and this land was all levelled the way it is – well they were actually in the process of doing it – and now basically all my autoCAD is basically going in the garbage because we’ll have to start over,” Bast noted.

The ruling from the city means he and other residents will have to make the changes on their own dime.

“It’s going to end up being more grunt labour than anything. Either that or pay for a hydrovac cause you can’t really dig over it. It is what it is,” Bast said.

“The crazy part is there is a gas main is right there; it’s already at minimum depth, so unless SaskEnergy tells me to dig on it, we won’t be digging anything on it,” he continued.

READ MORE: Pilot Butte community members rally to support couple who watched their home burn down

SaskEnergy couldn’t confirm whether or not they were working with residents or the town on the project, but did say a safe work plan is required near their underground infrastructure. Building applications would be denied if they “are concerned their line could be potentially struck, and further planning may need to occur.”

The town of Pilot Butte did strike a SaskEnergy line in the same area previously when trying to create a swale, but they didn’t puncture or damage the line.

Story continues below advertisement

They also noted any digging activity within a SaskEnergy right-of-way requires permission to proceed and there is an application process available on their website

Some residents are planning to issue the city a cease and desist order on the easement, but it’s yet to be filed.