Drain application dropped as petitioners pull out

Centre Wellington council has asked its drainage engineer for a final report after petitioners pulled the plug on a municipal drain request at a public meeting here on Monday.

There were two petitions for what was called the Van Driel drain, located at Lots 8 and 9, Concession 2 in the former West Garafraxa township.

Township drainage engineer Neil Morris, of K. Smart Associates, told council the estimated cost of the work proposed was $262,460 and consisted of 1,032 metres of open ditch work, with 912 metres on the main drain and another 120 metres on a drain for an adjoining property, plus work on an existing ditch on the main drain and 1,641 metres of close drain work.

There was also swale work and other improvements included in the project’s costs.

The drain would have served an area of about 470 acres.

The initial petition was served to Centre Wellington Township in July last year.

Municipal drains are rarely sought today because of their high cost. The Drainage Act itself goes back to the 1830s, Morris told council. A second petition was served to council in March, and there was a drainage meeting in Fergus in May.

Municipal drains are dubbed “user pay” with everyone who benefits from one being forced to pay a portion of its cost.

Morris noted the original petitioners will have to pay the engineering fees if the drain does not proceed. Those fees are about $60,000 to date.

For this drain, there are 82 landowners that would be apportioned costs if it was built.

Paul Lindsey, who has property in the area, spoke against the drain. He added he had a letter from another adjacent property owner “who wants out” and a third property owner is also against proceeding with such high costs.

Lindsey said the cost for work at that May meeting was presented as being over $590,000, and he asked why it has suddenly decreased.

Morris explained at that meeting neighbours asked for parts of the work to be dropped to save everyone money, and he accommodated those requests.

Lindsey said several of those original petitioners “only agreed to sign to find out the costs.”

He added basically the problem is caused by a 55-year-old ditch that has not had any maintenance.

He also checked the Drainage Act and learned that with the three largest property owner-petitioners dropping out, the remaining lands do not have the required 60% of the lands affected by it to continue the request for a municipal drain.  He had a letter from one neighbour withdrawing from the petition, and another had promised to do so but is currently on vacation.

“There has to be considerable consideration – especially when it affects 82 people and only one wants it,” he said.

Lindsey said of municipal drains in general, “The farming community cannot afford that. That’s why there are so few petitions.”

Councillors Walt Visser noted it has been many years since any council he sat on dealt with a municipal drain request.

Morris said the records of the old ditch “are lost to us.”

Mayor Joanne Ross-Zuj said if the township receives a letter of withdrawal from that third neighbour, it will have to consider the petition does not meet the Drainage Act requirements for a municipal drain.

Council finally decided it would ask the engineer for a final report to determine if those petitioners who dropped off comprise 60% of the lands.

It took no further action on the drain itself and dropped its consideration of a drainage bylaw that had been prepared for later in that council meeting.

Morris said he can simply apportion the engineering costs and the issue is then dropped.