Ludicrous litigation

July 7, 2016   ·   0 Comments

As everyone surely must know, litigation these days is expensive, particularly when it involves top lawyers and complex issues.

That being the case, it ought to be avoided whenever possible, particularly when one of the parties is in the public sector and taxpayers are on the hook, whatever the outcome.

Orangeville residents found that out a few years ago, when Police Act charges were laid against four members of the Orangeville Police Service over actions that appear to have stemmed primarily from inter-personal differences closely related to morale problems within the force – actions that could and should have been dealt with internally.

All told, those Police Act hearings apparently cost local taxpayers more than $1 million in legal fees, and far more if you added in the fact the four officers were on paid leaves of absence during the proceedings.

Interestingly, no similar litigation is currently under way within the same force under the tutelage of Chief Wayne Kalinski, who has succeeded marvellously in improving both morale and relations with the community.

But now Mono taxpayers are facing a similar situation, with costly litigation under way concerning a use proposed for a worked-out gravel pit.

The use in question is up to four annual water-skiing competitions on a lake created by Consolidated Sand and Gravel roughly half a century ago, when the law permitted extraction of aggregates below the water table.

Intentional or not, the result was a lake roughly one kilometre north to south and less than half that in width – ideal dimensions for a water-skiing competition.

One thing everyone involved in the litigation agrees upon is that the spring-fed lake today is a hidden gem, one which an uninformed visitor would think was a product of nature, not man.

The lake is on a 204-acre tract that was only part of Consolidated’s holdings, which were traversed by Airport Road when it was built by the Province as a development road through Dufferin.

Acquired by Lafarge Canada Inc. through its purchase of Consolidated, the 204 acres were purchased in 2009 by Caledon orthodontist Cliff Singer and his wife Judy for $1.1 million.

Cliff, now 60, says the lake was really all he wanted or needed, since his hope at the time was that he and his daughter Chantal, a water-skiing medalist, could use it for the sport and it might also be used occasionally for competitions involving up to about 40 contestants.

It was only after the land acquisition that inspections proved that the lake was, indeed, ideal for water-skiing, having depths of up to 25 feet and no shallow areas below five feet.

And the springs keep the lake at a pretty constant level, losing no more than one foot in depth following a long dry spell.

Until last weekend, I knew virtually nothing about water-skiing competitions, seeing the sport as simply a pastime enjoyed by countless numbers who love being pulled at high speed, usually by boats equipped with loud, powerful outboard motors that spew pollution into the air and water alike.

But what wife Pam and I discovered last Saturday was enormously different. We found that the five-year-old  boat owned by the Singers is virtually identical to the newer ones used for competitions, with an inboard 350-h.p. GM engine that produces no more pollution than a similarly equipped modern car and a tiny fraction of the noise produced by a typical outboard motor.

That being the case, why on earth would anyone object to the fact that the Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC) has agreed to let the Singers host up to four water-skiing competitions per year?

Incredibly, the Town of Mono’s response to Dr. Singer’s appeal of a three-year limit placed on its approval has been to hire a Toronto law firm to raise no fewer than 43 grounds of objection, none of which I see as having any basis in reality.

The ludicrous claims are that the proposed use of the lake for up to four of the year’s 365 or 366 days would endanger the local environment by causing too much noise and traffic  and risking water and air pollution.

Such consequences might be conceivably possible were the lake in the middle of a residential subdivision, but not where the only neighbours to the west are behind berms as high as 30 feet and those to the east are close to a mile away.

As for traffic, the fact is that it’s not a spectator sport in Canada, and while the site has space for hundreds (thousands?) of cars, the Singers say the most vehicles experienced to date at the competitions is about 40 – hardly a noticeably volume on Airport Road (the only current access to the former pit), which likely carries 20,000 vehicles on a summer weekend.

Dr. Singer says he has offered to abandon his appeal if the NEC agrees to renew his licence if he keeps his promise to limit the number and size of the competitions, run by a non-profit association.

With Mono taxpayers potentially on the hook for $250,000 in legal expenses related to a proposed multi-day NEC hearing in September, surely common sense demands that Mono Council – all but one member of which has not accepted an invitation to visit the site – abandon its frivolous and vexatious opposition.

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