In February, Frontenac County Council gave its approval for staff to proceed with expropriation on three properties whose landowners had decided not to accept the purchase offers from the county, and last week those expropriations took effect.
The three properties are all located on Road 38, on the stretch between Tichborne and Sharbot Lake. That stretch originally included 22 pieces of the former K&P rail line that had been sold off to the adjacent landowners. For the other 19 properties, either an agreement was reached or the county was able to find an alternate route for the K&P trail, whose completion has been a signature goal of the council for almost ten years.
Two of the three pieces that are being expropriated are located in South Frontenac Township. In each of the cases a verbal agreement was reached between the county and the landowner, but that deal was eventually rescinded by the landowner, according to Frontenac County Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Kelly Pender.
“Offers were made and were accepted. In these cases, the lawyers for the property owners, informed us that they were no longer willing to accept the offers,” said Pender. “In February we started expropriation proceedings, which took some time. We are obligated to pay market value for the properties and it took time to do the appraisal and go through all the other necessary steps.”
Late last week, the property owners received notices via registered letter, and they have 30 days to respond to the offer.
The County has the authority to expropriate lands under the Expropriation Act of Ontario.
“The Expropriation Act allows a municipality, approval authority or a public agency to take property for a purpose deemed to be in the public interest, even though the owner of the property may not be willing to sell it,” is how the Act is described in an information sheet put out by the Province of Ontario.
The property owners who have received the registered letter have 30 days to respond. The Expropriation Act provides for two options for property owners seeking to dispute an expropriation order. They can file an appeal with the Board of Negotiation, which will lead to an attempt to come to a mediated settlement. Or they can launch an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board, which can be expensive because of legal costs associated with presenting a credible legal case.
Although the property owners are able to appeal the settlement offered by the county in this case, the expropriation itself, the forced transfer of ownership over the land in question, cannot be appealed to the municipal board.
“Once the notice of expropriation is published, the land is the property of Frontenac County. The property owners all have lawyers, who have been in contact with our lawyers, so everyone is aware of what they can and cannot do,” said Pende
The propertty owners could take the county to court to see if a judge is willing to over-ride an expropriation order, but the expense could be substantial, and the fact that a price for the property had been agreed upon at one stage might make a court appeal dubious, at best.
When asked if the property owners could ask a judge to overturn the order, Pender said “the property owners should talk to their lawyers about that.”
Frontenac County is planning to complete construction on the trail between its border with the City of Kingston at Orser Road and the trail junction at Sharbot Lake, within a few months. The final hurdle, now that trail ownership is secured, will be a persistent swampy section.