Will similar DCE by-law violations occur at the McClung development?

by Gary McHale - The Regional

November 23, 2011

One of the best kept secrets in Haldimand County is the fact that even without the occupation on DCE there were numerous by-law violations occurring as the County rarely demands that well-known families comply with the rules.

While I would be the first to encourage new development in Haldimand, I believe most people agree that everyone should be subject to the same laws. In Haldimand, if you are part of the good-old-boys club then certain laws are overlooked. Sometimes these violations are just cutting corners, sometimes the whole development will come to a stop until the owner complies to the rules and sometimes the taxpayers in Haldimand pay the price for the County being willing to let people violate the law.

The Planning Act and Haldimand by-laws requires all developers of sub-divisions to enter into an agreement with the County prior to any work starting. Regarding DCE this agreement was signed by the County on Nov. 29, 2005 - two days later 72 lots were registered along with the roads, hydro and water system. Quite amazing that in two days the company was able to build these on DCE. I doubt anyone believes that no work occurred on DCE until after Nov. 29, 2005 - thus numerous by-laws were violated because no agreement was signed. This also means that for all the months that the roads, hydro and water systems were being built on DCE the county refused to enforce a single by-law.

On May 8, 2006 Councillor Ashbaugh made a motion, seconded by Tony Dalimonte and passed  unanimously by council, that Haldimand taxpayers pay the developer $256,687 for the cost of over sizing the water system on DCE - a cost the county had no obligation to pay. In fact, documents filed with Haldimand County dated Dec. 22, 2004 states that the developer would pay all fees for the water system, road system, lighting and signage on DCE and hold Haldimand County and Haldimand Hydro harmless and indemnify them for all expenses arising from the development. On April 13, 2004 the county passed a resolution that included the following statement:

"That prior to final approval, the owner [of DCE] shall agree in writing to satisfy all the requirements, financial or otherwise, of Haldimand County concerning the provision and installation of roads, services, drainage and fencing including but not limited to: cost for improving Argyle Street, Oneida 6th Line; costs for water and sewer over sizing and improvements to the Paisley Pumping Station."

One of the reasons the water system was over sized was because another developer wanted to build another sub-division across from DCE on the south side of 6th Line known as the Farrel farm - a development that to this day isn't approved by the County Official plan. However, on Oct. 27, 2005 (months before any occupation started on DCE) the developer told council he wanted "all sewers and water mains now being installed at Douglas Creek over sized to include his site." In 2007 the county attempted to add in this new sub-division into the County's Official plan but the Province rejected it due to the fact the County had put no effort into studying the impact of such a development.

However, this isn't the only cost that taxpayers had to cover. In a report filed with Council on March 5, 2009, Haldimand Hydro complained about hydro systems being 'energized' in subdivisions in Haldimand without Haldimand Hydro's approval. The report states, "The Fisherville Estates and Empire Corners cases provide two examples where the premature energization of the street lights resulted in the County paying the hydro for street lights in subdivisions that had not been registered."

The report is clear that these are not the only examples of the problem.  The County has refused to provide any proof that DCE was ever registered as a sub-division but the hydro was activated at taxpayer's expense. For months Haldimand taxpayers' covered the cost of hydro due to wilful errors by the county.

According the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing in their guide to Subdivisions it states, "When all conditions of the draft approval have been met, final approval is given and the plan of subdivision is registered in the provincial land titles or registry system. The developer may then go ahead with the sale of lots in the subdivision."

The County never issued a letter of clearance stating that all conditions had been met and therefore DCE was never registered as a subdivision. However, numerous lots were sold before the law allowed them to be sold.

A total of 71 lots on DCE were severed and 15 were sold without the subdivision being registered. Prior to the occupation starting on Feb. 28, 2006 the developer sold two lots on Dec. 19, 2005 for $140,000. On April 18, 2006, two days before the OPP raid on DCE the developer sold 9 lots for $933,933. On May 12, 2006 another 5 lots were sold for $310,000. The McGuinty Government bought out these properties for $349,000, $1,339,000 and $555,000 respectively - netting a $400,000 profit for the company that bought on April 18, 2006 and held the property for a mere 3.5 months. Furthermore, the land transfer deeds I have reviewed show that no land transfer taxes were paid.

Since no lots can be sold until after the subdivision is registered, steps were taken to back date documents in order to make it appear as if things were done correctly. One land transfer deed registered on May 31, 2006 was back dated in attempts to make it look like it was done on Dec. 30, 2005. Even the lawyer involved refused to sign this document but it was filed anyways.

With the McClung Rd. development about to start the public should be asking just how many laws will be violated and whether the Mayor and Councillors will bring an end to two tier law enforcement in Haldimand county where well-known families are exempted from the law?