Improvement District Services
Improvement districts are incorporated under letters patent in order to provide one or more objects (services) to landowners of a community.
Types of Services
The services that an improvement district may provide are listed in its letters patent. The letters patent use the term "object" to describe services. Typically an improvement district provides one or two services, the most common being water services. Other common services provided include fire protection, street lighting, garbage collection and dyking. An improvement district may not provide services that are not set out in its objects.
Improvement District Boundaries
Generally an improvement district may only provide services within its boundary.
Fire Protection Service Outside of Boundary
Fire protection is the only service an improvement district can provide outside of its boundary. In 2005, an Order in Council was passed to provide improvement districts the authority to respond to emergencies outside of their boundary. These incidents include fire suppression; search and rescue; medical emergencies; hazardous material incidents; and traffic accidents. The board of trustees must adopt a bylaw to enact this authority.
An improvement district fire department may enter into a mutual aid agreement with other fire departments. This can be beneficial for incidents where the fire service requires assistance from, or can provide assistance to, a neighbouring fire department. The mutual aid agreement must be authorized by bylaw.
Amending Boundaries to Provide Services
When a landowner located outside the boundary wants to receive a service provided by the improvement district they can petition the improvement district to be added to the improvement district area.
The boundary extension is contingent on the agreement of the board of trustees that there is an ability to supply its services to the property and the landowner agrees to pay all costs in relation to the service installation, which can be collected over time through tolls or taxes.
With that agreement in place, the board of trustees can ask the province for an extension of its boundaries. The improvement district must also amend their services bylaw. The amendment to a boundary is a provincial decision, done through the amendment of an improvement district's letters patent.
Most improvement districts are located within the boundary of a regional district. A few improvement districts are located within municipalities, for historic reasons. The improvement district and the regional district or municipality are independent of each other, each providing separate services.
However, there are significant interconnections between an improvement district and the local government in which it exists, so coordination and communication between the bodies is essential. Having established good relations with the relevant local government may assist if the improvement district and its landowners determine that the improvement district cannot continue or that its services could be provided more efficiently by a local government.
Improvement districts have the authority to set rules in relation to the services they provide. For example, by bylaw improvement districts may set the price for providing a service or regulate the manner in which it is provided. The cost of providing a service is recovered through taxes, tolls (user charges) and other charges which are established by bylaws adopted by the board of trustees.
Regulating, in relation to a service, allows a board of trustees to restrict what people may do, prohibit some activities, or require certain actions. For example, a board of an improvement district that provides a water service may impose watering restrictions during times when water levels are low. Regulations are established by bylaw adopted by the board.
Other Provincial Legislation
While improvement district authority is set out in letters patent, the Local Government Act other provincial legislation may also establish other requirements. For example, improvement districts with a water service are subject to the Drinking Water Protection Act; improvement districts with a fire protection service are subject to the the Fire Safety Act; and improvement districts with a garbage service are subject to the Environmental Management Act.