Susan and Steven Granger say they aren’t about to go away quietly now that the municipality has accepted the bid of a Windsor firm to remove a number of vehicles, farm machinery and implements from their Langstaff Line property.
The contract for removal was awarded to Gagnon Demolition of Essex County for $5,800 after a number of firms bid on the work last month. The vehicles have yet to be removed but the work is expected to be carried out by the end of the month.
“They (Chatham-Kent) don’t even understand their own bylaws,” Susan said. “There is an exemption for farm equipment and they’ve tried to tell me that because we don’t farm at least 50 acres we don’t qualify but that’s not what the bylaw says. They have no credibility with me on any of this.”
The Grangers have been resisting cleaning up the property for some 20 months since a complaint was received about the 1.75 acre site in the former Chatham Township.
They argue that municipal property standards bylaws don’t apply to private property and cite a 2012 Ontario Court of Appeal ruling backing their belief that the municipality cannot enter private property or remove items it finds there.
In that case, in the municipality of Georgian Bluffs (near Owen Sound) the property owner was awarded more than $70,000 in costs after a site was entered and cleaned at the municipality’s request.
Chatham-Kent chief legal officer John Norton said the Langstaff Road property cleanup has been undertaken on both the derelict vehicles and property standards bylaws.
“Derelict vehicles was used for the cars and property standards for the remainder of the material,” he said.
Norton said despite the Granger’s concerns they have had every opportunity to remedy the situation. “We received a complaint and we had to investigate,” he said. “A clean up order was issued and the Grangers appealed that to the property standards committee with two council members and the appeal was denied,” he said.
“I don’t want the public thinking this is some staff action alone,” he said. “The Grangers had their day in court so to speak and the elected officials decided the property violated property standards. It is then staff’s duty to carry out the order and that’s all we’re doing. You have to remember that the complainant is also someone who pays taxes and expects us to uphold our bylaws.”
Susan Granger said she plans to contact rural councillors and make them aware that if Chatham-Kent continues down its current course the implications will be serious.
“We intend to see that the firm working for Chatham-Kent is charged with theft,” she said. “The cars and equipment on our land are worth far more than they know. Just because they don’t like it, doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable.”
She said her son intended to build structures on the property to house the vehicles he plans on restoring or selling but was unemployed for four years and couldn’t afford to.
“My son collects Chrysler, Dodge and Plymouth products and has some which are worth a good amount of money. We offered to put up a fence but even that won’t satisfy Chatham-Kent.”
She said the complaint-driven process is driven by neighbour spite and if allowed to continue, there could be dozens of similar complaints.
“Virtually any road you drive down in the country you can find a rusted tractor or an old truck or two. Do they (Chatham-Kent officials) really believe they’re ready to clean up every place because if they aren’t then they’re just picking on us and we’ll stand up for our rights.”
The Ontario Landowners Association (OLA) has provided information to the Grangers and a number of OLA members went to their property when bidders arrived to clean it up.
Jeff Bogaerts of the OLA said his group will be contacting provincial and federal members of government on the Grangers’ behalf.
“If the private personal property is removed from the private lands of the Grangers the fight will continue,” he wrote to the Voice.
Susan said her and her son are contemplating legal action but lack the resources of the municipal government for a lengthy court fight.
“They’re going to use our own tax money to beat us down,” she said. “They have the power and they just keep grinding away.”