These FAQ’s have been prepared by our volunteer Road Advisor Don Payne who has provided invaluable help to FOCA members for many years. Thank-you to Don for the information and for answering so many member questions over the years. These FAQ’s are provided as a service to FOCA members. They do not represent a professional opinion; they are based only on past and common experience of road associations. If you need a professional opinion please contact a professional in the required field.
Q1. I haven’t been to my cottage in the winter for years, but this past winter, because there was so much snow, I decided to clear the cottage roof off. Happily when I arrived I found that the road was already plowed. Am I obliged to pay for snow plowing when I visit my cottage for just one day?
A1. Someone paid for the snow plowing service you benefited from. I’m sure that if you put yourself in that person’s shoes, you would appreciate at least something, in gratitude for the fact that you had removed from him the burden of having to find someone to plow the road and pay perhaps as much as $70 or more per plowed kilometre for having it done. Your road association should have a separate group that has the road plowed. Ask the “plowing group” what their daily rate for using the plowed road is and pay it. It is only fair that everyone help pay for the services they use and benefit from.
Q2. I’m being hounded by the road committee for not paying my share of the annual road repair levy. I used to always pay my share, but now I tell them that I am not going to subsidize those few who don’t pay. What should I do?
A2. Every time another road user stops paying his annual road repair levy there is less money to keep the road in good repair. If enough people don’t pay their levy, money for repairs will be reduced and at some point the condition of the road may deteriorate and possibly become unsafe or impassable. Write a letter to the road committee — send it by registered mail— explaining your position along with your cheque in full payment of the amount of your current levy and include any money owed from the past. Ask them to send registered letters to those who haven’t paid, suggesting a face-to-face meeting to discuss the issue. Also mention that it would be unfortunate if the association has to take them to court to collect what they owe. It may also be a good idea to get yourself onto the road committee to ensure that the matter isn’t set aside for another year. The Statute of Limitations allows back payment of just two years levy.
Q3. I don’t go to my cottage in the winter but my neighbour says I have to contribute to snow clearing of our road because my property insurance would otherwise be void. Is that so?
A3. Permanent residents on private roads usually have more things of value to insure — silver tea service, valuable paintings and china, high quality rugs, jewellery, computers etc. —the kinds of things you would more typically find in a permanent home in the city but not in a seasonal cottage in the country. Such being the case, an insurance company may require a road to be open 24/7 for the lowest premium or offer insurance at a much higher premium if your road is not open year round. Possibly some insurers wouldn’t offer insurance unless an access road is plowed. Therefore one way to keep property insurance premiums down is to have a road open 24/7. If you could lower your insurance premiums or get insurance by having your road plowed, would you encourage others on your road to have it plowed? Would you encourage as many as possible to share in the cost of plowing to keep your plowing costs down? You are contractually obliged to follow what your policy says. You will have to check the details of your specific policy to find out if plowing is a condition of keeping your policy in force.
Q4. The other day I rounded a bend in our cottage road and narrowly missed an ATV that was racing toward me in the centre of the road. I understand the usefulness of these vehicles around the cottage, but I’m concerned about their use when they turn our road in to an ATV playground. What can be done about this?
A4. In cottage country there are all kinds of ORV (Off Road Vehicles), including ATVs, dirt bikes, farm tractors, golf carts, lawn tractors and snowmobiles. By definition, none of them should be on the road because they are designed for use off road. No one complains about them because they are driven in a responsible manner, and, after all, it is cottage country. If your road association doesn’t have a policy about ORV use of your road, it may be found wanting if there are ongoing safety concerns.
ATVs can be used as important work vehicles. The Province allows 4 wheel ATVs to travel the shoulder of some designated rural highways. Also, municipalities have the option of allowing them to travel along the shoulders of their roads. An ATV “visitor” may come off a municipal road allowance onto your road... Have an open discussion with your road committee and all your neighbours about ORV use on your road. Get some rules or policy set, and signs posted to state to all what they are.
Q5. What is the rationale behind everyone paying the same annual road repair levy as opposed to paying by distance from the start of the road?
A5. Every property owner gets only one benefit from a private access road and that one benefit is access to their property by highway vehicles. Same benefit equals same levy. Also, if everyone pays (say) $100, then most of each $100 would be spent where it is needed most; usually at the early sections of the road - the sections over which everyone travels and gets the most used. Very little of the gravel is applied and little grading is done at the end of the road because there is very little traffic there. If a slow driving, single vehicle, two month resident at the end of the road had to pay $3x the basic (beginning of the road) levy, while a high speed, multi-vehicle, 6 month resident living near the beginning of the road pays only $1x the basic levy, then the multi-vehicle resident is "consuming" the road at a much higher rate than the resident at the end, and therefore is being subsidized by the end of the road resident. It is too hard to determine who uses up the road the most, so it is easiest for all to pay the same annual road repair levy. A “one for all and all for one” approach reduces arguments and builds community agreement.
Q6. What is the fairest way to levy annual road repair costs to property owners who have vacant lots or vacant lots adjacent to their cottage lots?
A6. Every property owner gets the same benefit from a road and that is the ability to drive his highway vehicle to his property. That benefit is the same for owners of developed as well as vacant lots. Real estate agents will tell you that a water-access lot is worth less than one that is road-accessed. They will also tell you that the better the road and the longer it is usable during the year adds even more value to a property. A lot that is on a municipal road – a road whose repair, insurance and snow clearing costs are all paid out of municipal property tax - is worth even more. Property speculators just love it when they are asked to pay little or no annual road repair levy. Also, those who own adjacent lots where one lot is not developed enjoy the same benefit as the speculator. If they sell that lot, it is unlikely that they will even think about sharing the extra profit they will get with all their neighbours who paid to keep the road in good repair. Given the above arguments, shouldn’t every lot owner pay the same annual road repair levy?