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Sunset Ridge residents voice concern over lack of land maintenance

Cochrane is looking extra green and lush after all the recent rainfall, maybe a little too lush if you ask some residents of Sunset Ridge.
20220624 Weeds and grass in Sunset JL
Grass and weeds grow tall along a stretch of a boulevard on Sunset Road in the community of Sunset Ridge on June 24. (Jessica Lee/The Cochrane Eagle)

Cochrane is looking extra green and lush after all the recent rainfall, but maybe a little too lush, if you ask some residents of Sunset Ridge.

Some boulevards and centre medians on streets around the neighbourhood have become overrun with tall grass and weeds this spring and early summer, to a point where many residents are voicing their concerns over a lack of upkeep and transparency about who is responsible for maintaining the areas.

“I was looking at the grass about a week ago thinking, gosh, because all of the rain, it’s really shot up,” said resident Tracy Knight. “Then I realized I hadn’t seen any maintenance crews for a while.”

A few days later, Knight said she saw crews from the Town of Cochrane maintaining weeds and grass on the centre median near her home.

“They don’t normally do that,” she said. “It would normally be the landscaping company.”

Town crews did not touch the boulevards along the street, Knight added. The observation spurred her to look for information online about who is officially responsible for maintaining the areas.

Knight first went to the Sunset Ridge Homeowners Association (SRHOA) website and dug through incorporation documents and bylaw documents. She finally found the answer she was after in the frequently-asked-questions section, but it wasn’t as cut and dry as she’d hoped.

Where she understood the responsibility of maintaining the boulevard to be that of the SRHOA, comprised of a board of residents and representatives with Melcor – the developer of the community – she learned it was, in fact, on her shoulders to maintain the boulevard in front of her home.

“It doesn’t refer you to any reason why all of a sudden you would be responsible for that,” Knight said. “Nor did I ever get a quick message or an email – nothing.”

She says the change happened recently, not long after construction wrapped up on two homes located on either side of her property. Before that, she said all the boulevard and median maintenance in her area was done by the landscaping company.

Unbeknownst to Knight, land maintenance officially changed hands from being managed by the developer to the Town once construction was deemed complete in the area – after she’d already been living there for a few years and not long after she made the unfortunate decision to hardscape her entire yard.

“The Cochrane bylaw says that you have to maintain the boulevard,” she said. “I didn’t know and I haven’t had to do it until now … after I’ve done all this work to my yard to not have to maintain it.”

Specifically, the Town’s Nuisance and Unsightly Premises Bylaw states that “every occupant or owner of any property or premise within the Town shall eradicate or control all weeds and grass on a premise, and on any boulevard which abuts or adjoins the premise, including up to the centre of lanes or alleys at the rear side of the premise.”

It also states that property occupants and owners must “cut or mow the grass on any boulevard or street, situated on Town owned land adjoining, abutting or adjacent to the premises owned or occupied by [them], to prevent such grass from growing to such a height as to be untidy or unsightly, having regard to the height of the grass on adjacent or surrounding premises.”

In an email to The Eagle, Town staff said “the maintenance of weeds, grass and trees throughout the community is shared between the Town of Cochrane, developers, Homeowners Association and private owners depending on the area.

“Historically, we have not notified residents as these responsibilities change,” the email adds.

Knight also did not receive any notification from the HOA when construction was deemed complete in her area.

“I still can’t understand the shift from our homeowners association fees covering it to it being switched over to the Town,” she said. “I don’t understand the legal process of how and when that obligation switched, which bothers me because I hate not being able to follow [that process] through.

“And it bothers me because I now don’t have the equipment to do this work.”

Knight said the way many of the lots in the area are graded is what led her to hardscape her yard in the first place.

“All the water runs away, so if you have anything that requires watering, it’s a total waste,” she said.

A stretch of Sunset Road, west of Sunset Pond, is made up almost exclusively of homes that are void of any grass in their front yard with similar sloping to what Knight describes. Grass and weeds on the boulevards in that area are especially long.

While the responsibility of maintaining the boulevards is in the hands of residents, street medians and parks are not. Yet those areas also haven’t been receiving the attention they deserve, according to some.

Sunset resident of 13 years Dina Martin said she has noticed grass and weed upkeep taking a toll for the worse in the last couple of years.

“It’s been really bad,” said Martin. “I feel every other area is getting the attention needed and Sunset is always left behind.

“My kids went to school here and I want to stay in Sunset, but it feels like I live in an area that isn’t maintained or cared about. It’s embarrassing.”

Recently, a few members of the SRHOA requested its board reach out to the Town on their behalf to ask why areas that had been transferred over to the Town’s responsibility were not being maintained to the same standard.

They were told that the Town is currently in the process of hiring additional staff and getting additional machinery with the hope that by mid-summer, common areas will be mowed once a week, dependent on weather.

According to the Town’s website, they are currently hiring summer parks workers and also trying to fill the role of manager of parks and open spaces.