Closing arguments in the appeal of the Georgian Beach Road lawsuit ruling that were to have been heard in a Toronto court room yesterday have been delayed until October.
One hour had originally been scheduled to hear the closing arguments, however the judge and attorneys on both sides agreed to delay the hearing of closing arguments in order to allow for more time.
“It was suggested by the judges that there was not enough time. They asked the lawyers who agreed, and they then rescheduled,” said Councillor Lynda Stephens when contacted by phone.
Councillor Lynda Stephens, along with Meaford's Director of Operations, Stephen Vokes, who is currently acting as team leader for the municipal Senior Management Team in the absence of a CAO, attended the brief court session Monday on behalf of the municipality. Stephens said that the first court date that was open for lawyers on both sides was in October.
Closing arguments for the appeal have been rescheduled for October 15, and the time allotted has been increased to three hours.
The case which began in 2007, has pitted the municipality against some of the property owners on Georgian Beach Road who the municipality claimed had blocked access along the water side of their properties angering some residents who maintained that the area in question is a public road access.
The municipality filed a lawsuit that has in large part hinged on a bylaw from 1854 that they say proves that the road exists and has never been officially closed off.
Though the initial lawsuit was brought against just a few property owners, when the case finally reached a courtroom, the judge ordered that the municipality must include all property owners along the stretch of road which expanded the case to some 70 properties.
In his ruling which was issued on September 21 of last year, Ontario Superior Court Justice Daley said that the 1854 bylaw is not sufficient proof that a road existed.
“There is no evidence that the purported public road was created by any of the means listed in s.26 of the Municipal Act, 2001. In particular, even if a public road or highway had been lawfully established, whether by dedication and acceptance or otherwise, the evidence is clear that the road ceased to exist after it was washed out in 1986 particularly in the location of the properties belonging to the Grist and Seaman et al. Defendants,” wrote Justice Daley in his ruling.
The ruling went on to say that even if a road had existed, the municipality did not exercise their rights to the road for more than 150 years.
Meaford's council voted in favour of appealing that decision in late October saying that their legal team believed that the judge had made errors in his ruling.
“The Municipality of Meaford Council has had the opportunity of reading the entirety of the decision with the input of counsel and staff. After much deliberation, the Municipality of Meaford Council has decided to file an appeal to the Municipality of Meaford v. Grist, et al Summary Judgment Motion of Justice Daley issued September 21, 2011,” read part of the press release issued by the municipality on October 21 of 2011.
In January of this year, Superior Court Justice Daley ordered Meaford to pay costs of more than $600,000 to the defendants in the case. The judge said in his ruling that he found no “reprehensible conduct” on Meaford's part and awarded 65 percent of the defendants legal costs.
“Although it was determined that the plaintiff's action should be dismissed for the reasons expressed, there was no finding that the plaintiff's conduct was reprehensible or so egregious so as to warrant an elevated level of costs,” ruled Justice Daley.
Of the $617,000 that Justice Daley has ordered Meaford to pay, $342,842 has been awarded to Geoff and Pauline Grist, with the remainder divided amongst other defendants including slightly more than $28,000 to be paid to Fairview Trailer Park.
Former Meaford CAO Frank Miele, told The Independent in late September that the municipality had to that point spent in excess of $600,000 on the Georgian Beach Road lawsuit, which when combined with the order to pay costs brings Meaford's total cost for the legal action to more than $1.2 million.
Deputy Mayor Harley Greenfield, who is the official council spokesperson with regard to the case was not available for comment at the time of publication.
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