Drainage bill divides neighbours
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.