Stacey Gehrman shows the cost to finish paving Dorian Drive for the 20 property owners on the street. (The Enterprise/Angelina Katsanis)

ONTARIO - When Stacey and Paul Gehrman’s septic system failed in February, it may have triggered a project that could cost property owners on Dorian Drive $2.284 million. 

According to the state rules, if a property’s septic fails and they are within 300 feet of the city’s system, the owners must hook up to the city’s service. 

The Gehrmans’ home is not currently inside city limits, which is required to access city services, meaning they will need to annex in. 

The Gehrman’s annexation would force them to pay for a new curb, gutter, sidewalk and paving on a 91-foot section of Dorian Drive in front of their property. At an estimated $555 a running foot, that section of street improvements would cost the Gehrman’s close to $50,505. 

The issue, which led to a lengthy discussion at a June 3 Ontario City Council meeting, stems from the street in front of the Gehrman’s property, Dorian Drive, that is only partially paved. 

Dorian Drive, which is split into North and South, is the first road to connect SW 4th and NW 4th when entering Ontario from Route 201. The half mile road isn’t officially listed as a connector road but property owners said that it’s often used as one. 

Dorian Drive is for most of the way partially paved and has no curbs, gutters or sidewalks, which is required for residential streets under city code. Property owners are required to pay for their section of the street to be completely paved when there is a new development, a building permit that changes the footprint of the property or when there is an annexation.  

Dan Cummings, community development director for Ontario, said that in the past, the city would have just let the Gehrman’s defer their payment for the street work.

Recently, the Ontario City Council has told staff that it doesn’t want half paved streets and when it’s time to improve one section, the whole street should be upgraded. 

That would leave the 20 property owners along North and South Dorian Drive with a $2.28 million bill to divide amongst themselves. 

Cummings added that another push to fix all of Dorian Drive is that Councilor Ken Hart felt an open ditch made the road dangerous.

“To my knowledge there has never been an accident on this street, or accidents

involving the ditch. If anything, it keeps what traffic there is from going any faster than they do. If there have been accidents, we would like to see the police reports,” said Stacey Gehrman at the June 3 city council meeting.

Cummings contacted all property owners about doing a Local Improvement District (LID) that could qualify for low-interest funding from the state and construct the road.

Property owners would have 20 years to pay their share. Cummings said that LIDs are most common when doing large residential projects like this one. 

Under the city’s LID, the 20 property owners on Dorian Drive would split the bill based on their land frontage. The cost for one property owner was as high as $172,050.

“There wasn’t a single property owner that wanted to do a LID,” Cummings said. 

Another option proposed by Cummings and Hart was for property owners to privately repair the street. That could be less expense but would require property owners to immediately pay the cost instead of spreading it out over 20 years.

“Doing it privately also seems like too high of a bill. After Covid, people are struggling financially,” said Stacey Gehrman in an interview with the Enterprise. “Many people are on fixed incomes and everyone on the street is retired.”

With no property owners favoring an LID, and the city making clear they won’t force them to, the council was scheduled to decide last Tuesday whether to allow the Gehrmans to defer paving their section. 

The Gehrmans have asked to defer their payment until more of the property on Dorian Drive is developed so payments could be divided more affordably.

The Gehrman’s, whose home sits far back on their property, said they have looked into selling their lots located on the street to avoid the construction costs but that “city code has essentially made our property worthless.” 

“We hope to encourage the city to make some of their codings and rules more understandable for citizens. Unless you use city code for light reading, you won’t understand it and might need an attorney,” said Stacey Gehrman. “Or you could get stuck with a bill like ours.”

News tip? Contact reporter Joey Cappelletti at [email protected] or 616-610-3093.

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