Port Albert, Ont. residents push back on costs of 'shoreline drainage' plan

Correen Desrochers recently moved to Port Albert to build her dream home on her dream lot. But now, her family could be stuck with a $166,000 municipal bill to upgrade the roads and drainage around them.

“Who has that kind of disposable income on hand? That’s a lot of money. We are going to have to look to sever or move altogether, which is unfortunate. But that’s a lot of money to put on homeowners,” she says.

Desrochers isn’t alone. The signs around Port Albert suggest the majority of approximately 140 properties within the community’s new Master Servicing Plan, are against the $11 to $12 million plan to bring new roads and storm water management to a growing part of the shoreline community.

“Since we don’t need these improvements, I think the potential is there, if these areas are developed, these improvements could be done at that time. There’s no rush on our account to have these things put in place,” says Karen Hutchinson, who along with her husband Barry, is facing a potential bill of over $100,000 for the proposed infrastructure work.

The entire Hutchinson extended family, who own five, two-acre shoreline plots, and 17 acres of farmland in the “servicing plan” area, is facing a municipal bill of nearly $1 million.

“These costs are absolutely prohibitive for us. We just rent the farmland to pay the taxes, to keep it in the family,” says Karen.

There’s no question it’s costly, but it is required work, says Glen McNeil, the mayor of Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh, the municipality that encompasses Port Albert. He says they have to dramatically improve drainage in parts of Port Albert, to prevent worsening shoreline erosion.

“The current residents and the future development will be asked to contribute on a cost-benefit basis for the drainage, that includes the storm water system that has to be put in place to prevent erosion, to the best of our ability. So residents, current and future, will be asked to pay a portion -- not all of it -- a portion. The municipality will pay the rest,” he says.

Pass those costs onto future developers, say current residents, who fear they will no longer be able to afford to live and summer in their current homes and cottages.

“Not that we’re against growth, we’re not. I’m all for new infrastructure and new growth, but we feel we just should be footing the bill, at these large amounts,” says Desrochers.

McNeil says council is still deciding the final Port Albert Servicing Master Plan, and there is no hard and fast timeline for a decision.