Couple's connection to T-burg water at centre of lawsuit against the county

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In an unprecedented move, the City of Woodstock is legally challenging the County of Oxford through the court system over what they say is an illegal connection to the Tillsonburg wastewater system.

Woodstock CAO David Creery, on the advice of city councillors, has filed an application for a court-ordered declaration that would quash the County of Oxford’s decision to allow a property on the border between Norwich Township and Tillsonburg to connect to the Tillsonburg system.

Backups from their septic tank had resulted in damage and inconvenience for the family.

“We believe that the county has acted improperly in contravention of the official plan as well as the planning act,” Creery said in a phone interview Tuesday. “So we’re seeking a judicial review of the issue.”

The application, first brought before the court last Friday, was adjourned until October 31 at 10 a.m.

Creery said cross border servicing has always been “a very big issue” for the city.

“It is one we take very seriously; the county has rules we rely on,” he said. “Our belief is that the county is not following their policies.”

Creery added his concern that “circumvention of the process is not an avenue for (county) council to heal the issues they have with their policy.”

The legal application revolved around the fact that on May 28 county councillors approved the connection of of Mike and Tara Brindley’s Norwich Township property to the Tillsonburg sanitary system.

But Woodstock councillors now say the requested connection is prohibited under a section of the Oxford official plan.

They explain even the county’s community and strategic planning department had issued a report recommending that the Brindley’s request be denied as it does not meet all the necessary criteria to be exempt.

“In particular, the report indicated that the fourth criteria was not met as the property was not experiencing a water quantity or water quality problem that the extension of services was required to remediate,” Woodstock’s court application reads.

On June 2, Sobeski advised county CAO Peter Crockett that the resolution was illegal and sent a follow up email on June 4. He also drafted memos to all other county councillors requesting they reconsider the decision on June 11.

On June 19, Woodstock councillors voted 5 to 1 to file an injunction to prevent the connection after Sobeski said such a precedent might damage Woodstock’s ability to market lands within the city’s boundaries.

He feared that developers would now be able to build outside the city and still tap into the city’s services.

The Norwich Township property was connected to the system last June.

“In order for the property to be connected to the system, an official plan amendment would have to be obtained based on sound planning reasons and rationale,” the application reads. “County council does not have the authority to ignore the official plan and must assess each and every criterion of the exception…”

heather.rivers@sunmedia.ca

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