Drainage court hears impassioned appeals

MINDEMOYA—A Court of Revision session regarding the Mindemoya drain was held at the town community hall on December 16. The purpose of said court is to hear appeals on assessments assigned to landowners as taxes when there is drainage work to be done in a municipality. A portion of the cost of the proposed drainage work to be collected is the assessment and the court hears appeals against these determinations.

Three people sit on the Court of Revision for the hearing for the Municipality of Central Manitoulin and the names of these people are usually put forth by council members. For this particular court, those hearing the appeals were Deputy Mayor Ted Taylor, Councillor Adam McDonald and citizen Jim Anstice. Mr. Taylor was elected to sit as chairperson for the purpose of this hearing.

There were two appeals of assessments and these were by Lise and Steve Shaffer and Stephanie and Tom Shaw. Presenting the engineer’s report was John Kuntze of K. Smart Associates Limited.

Mr. Kuntze presented a brief overview of the assessments, explained how the assessments were arrived at and allowed that the two assessments were similar.

He began by dealing first with the Shaffer property, which is the last holding before drainage goes into Hare Creek, and explained that a crossing, a culvert, will be constructed on this property which will allow Mr. Shaffer to go from side to side of the lot. “The crossing that is going in,” explained Mr. Shaffer, “has a cost of $8,700.”

In speaking of his appeal to the assessment, Mr. Shaffer started by stating that he is not opposed to the drain and he is not trying to stop the drain. He went on to say that he had this property for about 30 years, lost it for five years and has now bought it back. He explained that he wants the court to mainly look at the benefit assessment.

“My argument,” said Mr. Shaffer, “is that we are the end of the dog—we are the tail. We have never had a drainage issue, so to be assessed $5,000 is ludicrous. We have been taking the town’s water for years. I looked at benefit assessments for properties of the same size. I am not sure how the benefit methodology is reached, but I am sure it is subjective.”

In response to this, Mr. Kuntze replied, “in the comparisons, you have to realize, Steven, that you are getting a culvert. Three thousand ($3,000) of the assessment is for the culvert. The benefit assessment has nothing to do with the size of the parcel, it has to do with the culvert on your property.”

It was with a great deal of frustration that Ms. Shaw spoke about the property in Mindemoya that she and her husband bought several years ago as a possible retirement home. The Shaws live in North Bay and Ms. Shaw has travelled to the Island 12 times so far to try to get some resolution regarding water issues on their property.

“Our property has been ruined,” Ms. Shaw told the court. “There is 12 to 18 inches of standing water at any one time. The water from Foodland contains silt and this silt sits on our backyard. If we have a big storm, we will probably have a large river running through our property. Our four-year-old son cannot play in the back yard.”

“I really feel that we are getting the raw end of the deal,” said Ms. Shaw. “This has caused an inordinate amount of stress. We will lose 12 mature trees, our hedge and the integrity of our property. We had three mature fruit trees and they are dead. We have an assessment over $5,000. I would like it brought to zero.”

Ms. Shaw went on to remark that now she has to contend with water from the new Credit Union as well as from Foodland. “The water that comes from other places is a drainage issue,” she said, “but not of our making.”

“What can we do to solve this problem?” asked Chairperson Taylor.

“I am incredibly frustrated,” Ms. Shaw responded. “We have been talking about this for five years. I don’t have $5,000 for this property. I think we have been unfairly assessed.” In response to a question from Councillor McDonald looking for a dollar figure, Ms. Shaw said that she didn’t think they should have to pay anything.

Individuals appealing their assessments to the Court of Revision can also appeal to the Ontario Drainage Tribunal if they are not satisfied with the original decisions.

Betty Bardswich