THREE RIVERS – A storm retaining wall built on the municipality's land has been ordered to be removed.
The decision was made by Three Rivers council during a committee of council meeting in Georgetown on Dec. 21. Brad and Kim Evans had built the wall over the past few months on a Three Rivers' easement – which is intended for public works – directly in front of their home on Chestnut Street in Montague.
"The town office (had) confirmed that the transportation department sees no issue with the retaining wall where it is and there are no deviations of bylaws," Kim told council during the meeting.
However, Danny Clements, the couple’s neighbour, expressed concern about how the wall might impact one of his property's driveways, which utilizes the easement to help those exiting to get onto Chestnut Street.
"Bottom line is that this was built on the public right-of-way," he said.
As a result of their dispute, the Evans applied to enter a legal easement agreement with Three Rivers in order to keep the wall. Both parties spoke during the meeting before council made its decision on the agreement.
Chestnut Street is located on a hill, so the Evans had built the wall largely to protect their home and its roadside front steps from erosion caused by heavy weather runoff, Kim said.
"We need that soil to stay around the cracked foundation of our old home."
As well, because traffic runs right beside the Evans' front step, the wall was intended to make using the steps and entering their home-based business a little safer.
"(And) the road conditions have noticeably improved without mud and tree debris entering and then freezing onto the roadway," Brad said. "My family and I have invested hours of labour – and money – into this retaining wall."
The Evans understood that the easement is town property but argued it's there to help them access the street from their home and driveway.
"And not for our neighbour to use the easement in front of my house as their driveway," Kim said.
Clements said the wall makes it riskier to enter and exit his driveway as it has made the already narrow street even more narrow.
"It creates a dangerous obstruction," he said, "especially in the winter."
During the meeting, he questioned who was liable if the wall were to cause an accident, to which council had no answer. He also argued property value in the area would be affected and that the wall wouldn't help counter erosion.
"I fail to see how this would be an improvement over grass," Clements said. "You can clearly see that grass would take care of any issues of erosion – at least as well as the stone."
Ultimately, council denied the Evans' request to enter an agreement, on the basis it would set a bad precedent for similar requests in the future.
"We're opening ourselves up to a lot of extra costs and time," Coun. Alan Munro said. "I think that those easements are there for a reason."
During a standing vote on the decision, no councillors stood. Council gave the Evans 30 days from the meeting to have the wall removed – pending a discussion to see whether that's a reasonable timeframe for them.
Council also clarified that the wall does violate Three Rivers' bylaw, as the agreement would have been required before the wall's construction.
"Seems like it was a miscommunication with the town at the time," Coun. Cameron MacLean said.
Daniel Brown, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Guardian