Trial on South Dundas grain terminal in December

The UTI property on Lakeshore Drive in South Dundas. Two residents are fighting the municipality and the company looking to build a grain terminal here in court, as they challenge the issuance of a building permit by the township's chief building official. (Newswatch Group/File)

CORNWALL – A trial on the validity of a building permit for a grain terminal on Lakeshore Drive, west of Morrisburg, will go ahead in December.

Township residents Chris Rowntree and Charles Crober are challenging the chief building official’s decision to issue a building permit for the UTI property. The plaintiffs are being represented by Ottawa lawyer Donald R. Good.

The proposed Ontario Grain Terminals facility at the deep water port would consist of two, 20,000 ton grain bins with the possibility of adding two more in the future.

The defendants are Morrisburg Dock Expansion Inc., represented by Toronto lawyer Zaid Sayeed, and the Municipality of South Dundas, represented by Morrisburg lawyer Eldon Horner.

Sayeed argued Friday in a Cornwall court, the plaintiffs had “no genuine interest in moving forward” because several deadlines had been missed between February 2015 and now.

He was looking for a dismissal or, alternatively, a strict deadline to meet the Dec. 17 trial date. The trial was originally supposed to happen in July.

“There were four deadlines for completion of materials…out of those four deadlines, each one was only achieved because I went to the effort of asking for it,” Sayeed stated.

“The urgency is something that needs to be dealt with really strongly. It’s been eight months. The results of those delays have been serious…we’re talking about a commercial operation,” Sayeed said.

He said the delays are resulting in loss of opportunity for construction, affecting profits for his client’s business and, with winter coming soon, a chance that financing for the project could be in jeopardy. “You can’t pour foundation when there’s frozen ground.”

“Suppose it gets pushed back to February or March. That’s another few months of delay where competitors could build, where financing could be lost, where genuine problems to this productive effort, which has been approved by the municipality, that will bring business into the community will be lost, or has a risk of being lost,” Sayeed said.

South Dundas lawyer Eldon Horner told court the delays in the last month-and-a-half “troubles me the most” as he tried unsuccessfully to contact the Donald Good to find out how the case was going to proceed.

But Horner said he wants the trial to go ahead. “On behalf the municipality, on behalf of the chief building official, it’s not our desire to see this application dismissed today. The ratepayers are concerned about this construction. They filed proper documents at the start to appeal the decision. The court is the entity that should make that determination. So I’m content that the matter proceed. But this can not continue…the delays,” Horner said.

The municipality’s lawyer suggested there could be “hundreds of thousand of dollars” incurred by all parties at the end of the case. “There’s a lot at stake here.”

Both sides agreed to a firm set of deadlines going forward that could see the case dismissed without a motion if the applicants fail to meet the agreed time lines.

There were also arguments submitted over whether South Dundas’ chief building official, Don Lewis, would be considered an expert in terms of his testimony. Classifying him as an expert would allow Lewis to give opinion-based submissions in addition to factual testimony.

Judge Ronald Laliberte told the lawyers his schedule will allow him to hear the trial Dec. 17.

There is also a motion being considered by the judge to strike the name “on behalf of Concerned Citizens of South Dundas” from the case. The defendants argue it’s not in keeping with the form of a small claims court case while the plaintiffs said it shows this is a concern of more than two residents.

Judge Laliberte was not prepared to address the issue of costs to date on Friday and said that could be addressed at a later date.

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