Charlottetown to expropriate land on Summer St. after stalemate

Needs tiny portion of land owned by E. Brian Johnston to allow work to proceed on sewer-water separation project

Dave Stewart
Published on July 17, 2014

Coun. Eddie Rice, chair of Charlottetown's Water and Sewer Utility committee, says the city may have to expropriate some of the land its needs for its sewer separation project.

©Guardian photo

It appears as though Charlottetown’s Water and Sewer Utility will have to take some of the land it needs by force.

The utility has been trying to reach an agreement with a landlord who owns property on Summer Street in order to lay pipe as part of the ongoing sanitary and storm sewer separation project. But there has been no progress, leaving the city with little choice but to expropriate the small piece of property it needs.

Last month, council began the process of authorizing the utility to do just that. And, at the July regular monthly meeting on Monday night, council unanimously approved a notice of intent to expropriate.

“We have allowed now for the file to move forward and we will be taking steps to expropriate and leave it up to the legal people, for the judicial system, to provide compensation for the land,’’ said Coun. Eddie Rice, chairman of the Water and Sewer Utility committee.

The property in question is owned by E. Brian Johnston, who has so far refused to allow the city to lay its pipe across his land unless the city purchases that property for $100,000.

Neighbours told The Guardian last month that Johnston doesn’t live on Summer Street but rents property. This newspaper has tried more than once to reach Johnston but without success.

Rice said the city can’t get hold of him either.

“We’ve tried to contact the owner but have had no success so now it’s gone to another set of hands to deal with. We’ve told our staff to keep communicating. Hopefully, we’ll reach an agreement to everybody’s satisfaction.’’

Rice said the city isn’t interested in buying a property with $100,000 of taxpayers’ money. The city could go around the property but that would cost $400,000.

“We have no use for it so we decided to go this route and it’s without our mandate. I cannot justify spending $400,000 of taxpayers’ money to go around the property when everybody else in the area has agreed to allow us through.’’

Rice said that $400,000 will come in mighty handy with the city’s ongoing efforts to create a second source of water.

When this project started, there was 13 kilometres of pipe underneath the city that handled both sanitary and storm water. Heavy rains would overwhelm the single pipe, causing effluent to spill into the Hillsborough River and cause headaches to the local fishery.

Once this project is finished, those problems are expected to stop.

The city does have an unregistered easement on Johnston’s property from when the existing pipe that runs underneath was placed.

Rice expects work can continue on Summer Street by the end of the month without any delay.

“It’s a key step forward, a necessary step forward. This is for the general good of the citizens of Charlottetown.’’