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Last hurdle cleared for South Innisfil Creek Drain project

Construction will begin shortly on the improvements to the South Innisfil Creek Drain.
Innisfil Town Council gave third and final reading to the By-law authorizing the South Innisfil Creek Drain project. Miriam King/Bradford Today

The Nov. 28 meeting of Innisfil Council saw a landmark decision by councillors: after 19 years of controversy, protests by landowners, and revisions, the South Innisfil Creek Drain project has been approved.

What started as a simple request for the maintenance of a municipal drain for improved flood control, by local farmer Boris Horodynsky, turned into years of legal battling, after the Town of Innisfil failed to meet its obligations under the Drainage Act.

A court-ordered engineering report saw the total cost of the project balloon to well over $7 million. The resulting  assessments on the “benefitting landowners” within the South Innisfil Creek drainage area were crushing – leading to protests, an appeal to the Drainage Referee, and the eventual hiring of R.J. Burnside & Associates to review and revise the report.

Burnside's final report, filed in February of 2019, proposed costs totalling $5.361 million – including $107,898 plus $56,000 ‘non-pro-ratable’ assessed to the Province of Ontario, $195,147 to the County of Simcoe, $1.177 million plus $820,590 ‘non-pro-ratable’ to the Town of Innisfil, approximately $2.15 million to the agricultural landowners within Innisfil, and $837,620 to non-agricultural landowners.

There were several appeals of individual assessments, which have now been dealt with or dismissed – and on Wednesday night, council gave third and final reading to the by-law authorizing the construction of the project.

The Town also approved a 10-year debenture for any portion of costs not covered by benefitting landowners. The costs of borrowing will be recovered from the landowners on their taxes, over the 10-year period, at the going rate of interest obtained by the town.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Deputy Mayor Dan Davidson.

“Almost 20 years later, and we’re finally at a resolution,” agreed Coun. Rob Nicol, noting that the drain project “could have been a clean-out back then,” but escalated into the multi-year, multi-million-dollar nightmare.

“We’re finally at a point to close this chapter,” he said.

“It’s been a very long, and I know tedious struggle for our residents,” said Mayor Lynn Dollin, thanking R.J. Burnside & Associates for “coming to our rescue.”

The by-law was approved unanimously.

After the meeting, Manager of Operations Jason Inwood noted that the next step will be a meeting with the Ministry of Transportation, to finalize details of the culverts under Hwy. 400, for a long time a sticking point in the drainage work.

“MTO has to do their piece. It’s an important part of the whole drainage system,” said Inwood, noting that he would be meeting with MTO next week, and moving the project forward.

A portion of drainage area falls within neighbouring municipality of Bradford West Gwillimbury. The Town of BWG has been assessed $1,471, BWG agricultural land-owners in BWG have been assessed another $8,730, and BWG non-agricultural landowners, $6,822.