It is never a good thing when a municipality sues their own residents and taxpayers.
The ongoing legal battle between the Municipality of Meaford and property owners on North Georgian Beach Road escalated last week when on the opening day of the trial a superior court judge ordered Meaford to include more property owners in the legal action.
The Municipality of Meaford contends that several property owners in the area have constructed fences or have otherwise blocked what was once a public road.
To support their argument, the municipality insists that a bylaw from 1854 provides proof that the road existed and was never closed, however property owners claim that their deeds show that they own their properties to the waterfront including where the former road existed.
The road in question washed out in the late 1980's after which it was used as a footpath.
One has to question the wisdom of the municipality taking the decision to sue it's residents. Thus far hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on this legal action with hundreds of thousands of dollars still to be spent.
With the additional defendants in this case, the legal bills will rise, and property owners who were previously not involved will now have to spend thousands of their own dollars in order to defend themselves.
Property owners who are being sued by the municipality have filed counter suits seeking millions of dollars in damages from the municipality.
All of this for something that would appear to be the fault of the municipality itself.
Let's face it, if indeed this former road was never officially closed, then it would be the responsibility of the municipality to ensure that the road was clearly identified as municipal property, and to ensure that homes, fences, or other barriers would not be built on the site of that roadway.
By failing to take proactive action to ensure that the road in question was clearly identified as municipal property, we now have a battle between our municipality and property owners and taxpayers.
Instead, hundreds of thousands of yours and my tax dollars are being spent in order to maintain a footpath.
What does the municipality hope to gain through all of this? Does the municipality feel that this is money well spent? Do they think that after spending all of this money they will have something that carries a value that will equal what has been spent?
I don't know about you, but when I spend my own money one of the factors I consider is if the amount spent will provide me with a benefit that justifies the expenditure. If I need a new shirt I might think that $40 is a reasonable sum to pay, so if I was told that it would cost me $8,000 I would determine that it wasn't worth it to pursue the purchase of that shirt.
The municipality should do now what it should have done years ago. Officially close the road, agree that the land now belongs to the property owners and move on.