Council signals intent to expropriate land for sewer separation project

Dave Stewart
Published on June 9, 2014

Queen Street at the intersection with Pond Street is blocked to traffic as work continues in the city's sewer extension project.

©Guardian photo by Brian McInnis

Charlottetown’s Water and Sewer Utility may have to take some of the land it needs for its separation project by force.

City council began the process at its regular monthly meeting Monday of expropriating land it needs on Summer Street.

Coun. Eddie Rice, chairman of the utility, said negotiations with E. Brian Johnston have failed so far so the city may not have any choice but to take it without his consent.

“All of the other properties in the surrounding area have agreed for the greater good of the city,’’ Rice said following a unanimous 8-0 vote by council to signal its intent to expropriate.

Couns. Mitchell Tweel and Cecil Villard were absent.

The actual vote to take the land it needs, should talks continue to fail, will be held at the next regular monthly meeting of council on July 14.

“This is just the first step. We are allowed under our acts to expropriate.’’

Efforts were made to reach Johnston Monday evening after council’s meeting but were unsuccessful. One resident on Summer Street said Johnston rents units.

The city is in the process of laying pipe underground that will enable it to completely separate sanitary water from storm water and preventing the much-publicized overflows into the Hillsborough River.

Rice said Johnston wants the city to buy his property and is asking $100,000.

The city does have a non-registered easement over the property in question. The existing pipe is there and all the city wants to do is put the new pipe next to it.

Rice said it would cost city taxpayers $400,000 if the city chooses to go around the property.

“We can’t in all conscience support that because there’s a non-registered easement already there. We’re just looking at the ways and means that we act upon it.’’

The utility has expropriated property in the past but Rice said he’s optimistic a deal will be reached.

This little snag isn’t causing any delays in the sewer separation project yet.

Rice said council signaled a notice of intent to expropriate the land next month so it wouldn’t cause a delay.

“That’s the whole purpose of tonight, to not delay the project. If we go beyond July 21 then we are in danger of possibly causing a delay in the project.’’

Not only would it delay the project, but the firm that’s handling the work could slap the city with a penalty.

“The timing is critical.’’

Rice said they’re trying to get in and out of the area quickly so it causes as little disruption as possible.

“(The residents) have been very patient with us. The success is there, we can smell it.’’

If a deal with Johnston isn’t reached and the land is expropriated the land owner would be compensated and "a price is decided by the due process of law. It would be what he’s entitled to. I hope that’s fairness for everybody.’’