Is Haldimand violating the Planning Act?

by Gary McHale - The Regional

October 19, 2011

Ron Hubert, a resident of Caledonia, has become a thorn in the side of Haldimand Council. Mr. Hubert approached me a few months ago with hundreds of legal documents that show Haldimand is severing land and issuing permits that do not comply with the law.

To be fair to the current council these problems have existed for many years. For 25 years Mr. Hubert has been battling Haldimand County's willingness to overlook the law for those who happen to be part of the good-old-boys' club. Mr. Hubert showed me newspaper stories as far back as 1993 where Haldimand by-law enforcement had investigated an illegal dump beside his property at the north end of Caledonia and claimed that no laws were violated. Mr. Hubert didn't give up and the Ministry of Environment fined the property owner $15,000 for operating an illegal dumpsite.

Mr. Hubert alleges that even after the Ministry fined the property owner the County refused to hold local developers, who were using it as a illegal dumpsite, accountable. It was this event that caused Mr. Hubert to start gathering legal documents about how Haldimand County conducted its business and how certain people were allowed to break the rules. According to Mr. Hubert, "It isn't the rules that are important but who you know in the County."

More recently he alleges the county has been approving severances for surplus farm dwellings due to farm amalgamations to applicants who do not qualify. Mr. Hubert provided me with dozens of legal documents of one example of how this works.

In February of 2009 a Hamilton judge swore out an application claiming to own a surplus farm in Haldimand. On the application the judge claimed to have been farming the land for 36-37 years as the owner of the farm and he now wanted to sever the land to sell off the already built home. Implied in the application was that the judge was also owner of approx. 11 other farms thereby this would allow him to sever the surplus home.

A letter from Haldimand County to Mr. Hubert in Nov. 2009 states, "The information contained in an application form is signed and sworn in the presence of a Commissioner taking Affidavits. An applicant declares that all statements in the application form are true knowing that signing the declaration is of the same force and effect as if made under oath."

The minutes of the Committee of Adjustments meeting on May 12, 2009 shows how Ron Hubert and a neighbour were present and informed the Committee that the application, in particular ownership of property, didn't comply with the rules. The Committee was told that Mr. Hubert would appeal if they approved the severance. The Committee didn't care and adjourned the meeting and later approved the severing of the land.

Mr. Hubert was true to his word and filed an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board and a date was set for late Nov. 2009 to hear the case. From May 2009 to Nov. 2009 the County hid many of the documents needed to appeal their Committee's decision. When the county did provide a document they blocked out key information that would have shown that the ownership of the property didn't match up with what was stated in the application.

This refusal by the County to release documents is in direct violation of the law which states in the Ontario Planning Act, "Information and material that is required to be provided to a municipality or approval authority under this Act shall be made available to the public."

Mr. Hubert wouldn't give up and requested that the Ontario Government release all the documents Haldimand was hiding from the public. It was the Ontario Municipal Board that released the documents (without blocked out areas) so that Mr. Hubert could prove his case that the county had approved an application that was illegal.

Mr. Hubert had the proof and a public hearing was scheduled. Just before the hearing was to start Haldimand County filed an Affidavit stating the following:

"In the course of preparing for the hearing and reviewing the planning material Haldimand County discovered information regarding the ownership of additional lands which is relevant to the County's position on the appropriateness of the consent application. This information called into question the conformity of the application with the County's policies. The ownership information now available to the County is contrary to the information provided on the application form filed by the applicants..."

As a result the judge who filed the application to sever the land withdrew his application which caused the whole appeal process to come to an end and thus ended the public hearing.

Although the County's letter stated how applicants swear out their application under oath, the County has taken no steps to have the Judge charged for making false statements on the application.

A clear example of his false statement was that in Feb. 2009 he swore to be the owner and that he was farming the property for 36-37 years - he had not been farming the property. Meanwhile, the land title deed showed the 11 other farms were sold in Jan 2009. Even worse is the fact that his name never appeared on the title deed of any of the 11 farms at any time.

While the county staff swore out an Affidavit that the County suddenly had new information in Nov. 2009, the minutes from the May 12, 2009 Committee of Adjustment meeting stated they were informed of the problems - they just didn't want to listen.

Mr. Hubert alleges that this type of illegal transfer of land and development of land within Haldimand is standard business. He states that the County has become more creative about how they allow the illegal transfer of land and how the County actively hides documents from the public. He provided me with numerous letters to Haldimand County over the past few years requesting documents which the County has refused to provide.

Instead the County has threatened to sue Mr. Hubert...

continued next week