Ellen Jones, owner of the Hughes-Jones Centre for People and Animals, and landowner Haras Management Inc., took the province to court after receiving compensation of $536,800 for the property – an amount the owners argued was not a fair valuation.
Both the province and Jones hired appraisers to determine the value of the 79-acre property. The two opinions differed when it came to the amount that should be paid in compensation, with the province’s appraiser giving a lower estimate.
In a written decision delivered last week, Supreme Court Justice Jacqueline Matheson says she found the property values put forward by Jones’ appraiser were more realistic and ordered $295,398 in additional compensation be paid to Jones and Haras Management Inc. Costs were also awarded to the property owners.
Matheson noted the province’s appraiser, Herman McQuaid of Atlantic Realty Advisors (ARA), only looked at the market value of the land as an agricultural acreage and did not include the equine facility in its valuation nor did he consider the fact it is located within a municipality as a benefit.
McQuaid also did not consider the fact this was an expropriation not a negotiation between a willing buying and seller, Matheson said.
“The applicants are having their property forcibly taken from them and have little leeway to negotiate compensation,” Matheson states in the written decision.
Jones says she was especially happy to see this aspect acknowledged.
“It’s been a year and a half of stress and not being in control of your own life or your business,” Jones told The Guardian Monday.
“Having your land taken is not the same as putting it on the market for sale… it’s a big use of power and I think keeping that in check makes the building of roads or hospitals more responsible for all parties.”
She says all the owners are satisfied with the decision because they view it as measured and fair. They were not looking to make a profit, only to receive fair compensation, Jones said.
She adds she and the other owners are disappointed by the way they were treated by government, but have been overwhelmed by the support they have received from the community.
“Having to fight so hard to be heard was what was really frustrating,” Jones said.
“I can remember saying it felt like shouting into a void. We were heard by our neighbours and our supporters, but by the people who could actually make a difference, nobody was listening. That was a real challenge.”
In her decision, Matheson noted P.E.I.’s act does not refer to the “market value” of any property being expropriated, only that a land owner is entitled “due compensation.”
Matheson says the provincial government should consider revising the Expropriation Act to bring it into line with federal and provincial legislation in other jurisdictions “regarding appropriate compensation upon expropriation.”
Opposition Leader Jamie Fox says he would like to see action taken on this.
“The power of government to take away somebody’s land, that’s a huge issue, so government has a duty to use this power responsibly, and I don’t think in this case that the minister did.”
Jones says she hope the province does not appeal this decision, as they have just nine months to find a new location for their horse therapy farm and rebuild.
The province is acquiring a total of 24 parcels of land for phase two of the Cornwall bypass project.