Drainage bill di­vides neigh­bours

The Glengarry News - - Front Page - BY STEVEN WAR­BUR­TON News Staff

At its May 8 meet­ing, North Glen­garry coun­cil re­fused to give first and sec­ond read­ing to a con­tro­ver­sial by­law that would kick­start a costly drainage project in a 1,860-acre sec­tion of the for­mer Lochiel Town­ship. In­stead, coun­cil chose to de­fer the Che­nier-Jeau­rond Mu­nic­i­pal Drain project un­til its May 23 meet­ing, hop­ing to gar­ner more in­for­ma­tion in the in­terim.

The de­ci­sion was prompted by a num­ber of dis­grun­tled landown­ers who never signed on for the drainage project and are con­cerned they’ll have to shell out money for drainage work they never asked for.

Be­fore coun­cil chose to de­fer the mat­ter, it lis­tened to a pre­sen­ta­tion from the Kanatabased Robin­son Con­sul­tants, which in­formed coun­cil that the con­struc­tion of the mu­nic­i­pal drain – which would im­prove drainage for land, roads and tile out­lets – would cost $542,985.

Af­fected landown­ers would pick up slightly more than 94 per cent, or $511,240, while North Glen­garry, South Glen­garry, and the United Coun­ties of Stor­mont, Dun­das and Glen­garry would pay the balance.

It’s a pro­posal that some landown­ers aren’t too pleased about.

“This project has been put for­ward by peo­ple who would ben­e­fit from it but we won’t ben­e­fit,” said Jean Desch­enes, who owns just un­der 50 acres of land on the Glen Robertson Road. “The peo­ple who don’t ben­e­fit will wind up pay­ing a sub­stan­tial amount of money.”

After learn­ing that some of his fel­low landown­ers had started a pe­ti­tion for the drainage work, Mr. Desch­enes asked if it was pos­si­ble to put forth an­other pe­ti­tion from peo­ple who were op­posed to the work.

He asked if the town­ship would re­veal the names of the peo­ple who signed the pe­ti­tion but North Glen­garry’s Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Works, Ryan Mor­ton, said the mu­nic­i­pal­ity couldn’t do that due to pri­vacy laws.

Ted Wall, who owns about 50 acres in the area, said he wanted more in­for­ma­tion about the project be­fore he’ll com­mit to it.

“If we’re go­ing to spend $500,000, I want to know why,” he said. “I’m in­ter­ested in con­sen­sus.”

A few peo­ple at the meet­ing were on board for the project. Au­drey John­son MacDon­ald says that her land is flooded in some ar­eas while Alex Fer­gu­son, who rents land in the South Glen­garry por­tion of the area, has about 35 of his 48 acres af­fected by high wa­ter lev­els.

“This project is the only re­course we have to get the drains cleared,” says Mr. Fer­gu­son.

He says the sit­u­a­tion is noth­ing new. He re­calls get­ting a re­ally bad rain­fall in 2013 that wouldn’t drain off the land. As such, he had to re­plant all of his crops at his own cost. In­sur­ance wouldn’t cover it.

Mr. Fer­gu­son con­tends that fix­ing the land will be a win-win sit­u­a­tion for every­one. He says that when you im­prove the land, its value goes up, its as­sess­ment goes up, and it pro­duces big­ger and health­ier crops.

Even so, a num­ber of North Glen­garry coun­cil­lors ap­peared flus­tered after they couldn’t get a con­vinc­ing an­swer on how many peo­ple had signed on to have the drainage work com­pleted. Coun­cil­lor Carma Wil­liams urged coun­cil to de­fer the mat­ter un­til the next meet­ing. She had the unan­i­mous sup­port of the rest of coun­cil with the ex­cep­tion of Mayor Chris McDonell, who thought de­lay­ing ap­proval was a mis­take and that coun­cil should just go ahead with the first and sec­ond read­ing.

He pointed out that there is a mech­a­nism by which a landown-

er can ap­peal an as­sess­ment – the Court of Re­view, which is a hear­ing that the mu­nic­i­pal­ity is re­quired to hold for landown­ers to chal­lenge the as­sess­ment.

On­tario’s Drainage Act says it is pos­si­ble to start a drainage project even if 100 per cent of the af­fected landown­ers do not agree.

Kristy Denette, a spokesper­son with the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture, Food, and Ru­ral Af­fairs, says that a pe­ti­tion to the mu­nic­i­pal­ity must be signed by 50 per cent of the landown­ers or landown­ers who own 60 per cent of the area re­quir­ing drainage, in or­der for the project to be con­sid­ered by coun­cil.

She adds that the "area re­quir­ing drainage" refers to the area that would ben­e­fit from im­proved drainage. This is es­ti­mated by the pe­ti­tion­ers, and con­firmed by an en­gi­neer ap­pointed by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

“This process as­sures that the project is wanted by most of the peo­ple who might ben­e­fit from it,” she says. “In terms of pay­ing for the project, the mu­nic­i­pal­ity re­cov­ers the costs from the landown­ers through as­sess­ments against the land in the wa­ter­shed of the drainage works, which gen­er­ally is a larger area than the area re­quir­ing drainage.”

There are two kinds of as­sess­ments: out­let as­sess­ment, which is levied against all landown­ers whose land would drain to the drainage works (i.e., every­one in the wa­ter­shed), and ben­e­fit as­sess­ment, which is an ad­di­tional levy to those landown­ers whose land would ben­e­fit (this gen­er­ally is taken to be the land that will in­crease in value) as a re­sult of the drainage project.

Mr. Mor­ton says that the drainage project in­cludes 109 prop­erty roll numbers, en­com­pass­ing 12 lots over two con­ces­sions.


LONG­STAND­ING IS­SUE: Alex Fer­gu­son hopes a new drainage project will re­solve his prob­lems, while oth­ers op­pose the con­tro­ver­sial pro­posal.

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