Tom and Wendy Judson say they’re sick of the hold up with their Echo Lakes Estates Ltd. subdivision project on the west end of Emo—and have filed notice of their intent to sue the Ministry of the Environment if the delay isn’t rectified immediately.
The Judsons submitted a proposal for a subdivision on a 100-acre plot of land on Off Lake Road in 1993. Since then, they’ve invested almost $2 million into the project by building roads, putting up street lights, and providing utilities connections for all 70 lots on the parcel of land.
But cutting across the property is an easement which is used to drain surplus from the town’s sewage lagoon. And that easement has been the source of the delay to reaching a subdivision agreement with the township, Wendy Judson said.
During an open house Saturday at the only home the couple has been able to build on the property, Judson said the open-ditch easement has to be enclosed before the Ministry of Environment will put its seal of approval on the subdivision.
The problem is figuring out who’s responsible for paying for the change?
Karen Vaux, communications officer for Environment minister Norm Sterling, said the ball is in Judson’s court.
“I believe the developers were granted a conditional approval for a subdivision, and part of the condition included the requirement to enclose the easement,” she noted.
But Judson said the condition to enclose the easement was added to their subdivision proposal just last year—not when they originally filed it.
“Why wasn’t that addressed during the original proposal?” she wondered.
Relations between the two sides haven’t gotten any better. Judson charged the Ministry of the Environment has been absolutely “do-it-yourself” and that it has had “a very cavalier attitude” when it comes to solving this problem.
Vaux said the ministry is aware of the Judson’s intention to file for a lawsuit. But she added the ministry has taken the stance the easement is not its responsibility.
Kenora Liberal MPP Frank Miclash was contacted by Judson at the beginning of summer and has been in contact with Sterling, hoping to provide some sort of resolution.
“This a . . . significant development in the region that needs the attention at the minister’s level,” he argued. “He is certainly aware of the issue and he’d be the man in charge.
Miclash also said he was disappointed with the minster’s “lack of interest” in resolving this issue, adding he requested Sterling take a lead role.
“It’s truly unfortunate that a development of that size, with the potential it has, to have gotten off the rails,” he remarked.
Ironically, the Municipality of Emo has applied for a grant under the MoE’s Provincial Water Protection Fund to install a storm drainage system in the easement.
Clerk/treasurer Brenda Cooke said the ministry has received their application but the initial money in the fund was allocated before Emo’s application was received.
Cooke said the ministry told her the township would have to wait until more money is made available to the fund to have its application processed—and even then there’s no guarantee it will be approved.
Which leaves Judson and her husband with one model suite and 69 empty lots which they are unable to sell or build houses on because the town won’t issue them any more building permits until the subdivision agreement is signed.
She noted one person is set to build a house in the subdivision—and even has his financing lined up.
“We could have people building all winter,” Judson said. “It would be nice to give the people in the district the opportunity to work.”