Jeff Green | Mar 02, 2006
Feature Article - March 2, 2006
Feature ArticleMarch 2, 2006
Minister saysLineFencesAct will be revisedby Jeff Green
The Ontario government is poised to amend the century-old Line Fences Act, which could facilitate the development of recreational trails on former rail lines.
In a speech to municipal politicians in Toronto last week, John Gerretson, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, said, “Our government intends to introduce amendments to Section 20 of the Line Fences Act … These amendments, if passed, would require owners of abandoned rail right-of-ways to pay 100 per cent of the costs for construction and maintenance of fences only where there are neighbouring farm businesses.”
Section 20 of the Line Fences Act stipulates that a municipality that purchases an abandoned rail line is responsible for 100% of fencing costs. Municipalities who have purchased rail lines with the intent to establish trails have downplayed this responsibility in the past.
However, adjacent landowners in several south-western Ontario municipalities have successfully gone to court to force the municipalities to pay for fencing. This has put a damper on the so-called Rails to Trails movement. Locally, both Central and South Frontenac have pulled back from purchasing railway lands as a result.
Restricting Section 20 of the Act to apply only to farm businesses would cut potential costs to municipalities considerably. All other landowners would have recourse to other sections of the act, which provide for shared costs for fencing.
Ralph Walton, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, said that Minister Gerretson is promoting changes to the act that were identified in a government sponsored report released last year.
The minister “recognises there is a provincial and municipal interest in promoting agriculture, and this is balanced against the desire to promote opportunities for the public purchase of abandoned railroad right-of-ways for use in activities that can lead to economic development and improved recreational opportunities, such as trails,” Walton told the News.