Who owns Surrey Street anyway?

CALEDONIA – As reported in last week’s Two Row Times, Caledonia resident Ron Hubert launched an appeal with the Ontario Municipal Board over what he believes is unlawful manipulation of the rule of law and municipal by-laws regarding a huge new housing development in Caledonia’s northeast, which he contends has been slipped through the system without appropriate documentation.

But there is more. Much more.
Hubert is also claiming that what he calls a “good-ol’-boys system” may have also been at play at the former Douglas Creek Estates project, which was stopped by Six Nations land protectors in 2006.

Hubert says he has ample evidence that a few very influential Haldimand citizens have significantly benefited by skirting real estate law and municipal by-law requirements to hustle through certain projects, which he says, involves some Haldimand County officials and others related to the building trade.

Among other alleged violations of law, or at least highly unethical practices, Hubert claims to have information that would put the true ownership of what Haldimand calls Surrey Street in question.

A number of Six Nations people have been arrested on the assumption that Surrey Street belongs to Haldimand County when that may not be the case at all.

Hubert draws several parallels between the new McClung development and the former Douglas Creek Estates project.

He believes he has evidence that, like with the McClung project, millions of dollars in funding for the DCE project proposed by Henco Industries Ltd., was acquired by using collateral based on the assumption of rents from an, as yet, non-existing sub-development project. In reality, of course, there was no existing development underway and no absolute assurances the project would go through, especially since it was common knowledge that the community of Six Nations had a claim on the land.

He also alleges that the DCE project, like the McClung project, circumvented many checks and balances required before work on the project should have begun.

So, when Six Nations occupied the DCE lands, they unknowingly put all that investment money and any of those involved in these alleged back-room deals in serious jeopardy.

According to Hubert, while everyone was focused on the land claim and casting Six Nations as lawless criminals, the real crime was kept under wraps.

Hubert bases his allegations on copies of DCE documents he was able to get before, he claims, they were purged from the public record after his inquiries into the Empire McClung project began in 2011.

Hubert also alleges that what Haldimand refers to as Surrey Street — the main entrance roadway into the former DCE lands off Argyle Street — is, in fact, not owned by Haldimand County at all.

“If you look into the subdivision agreement, it is very specific,” Hubert says. “And if you look at the municipal act under ‘roads,’ you will see that the roadways were ‘dedicated’ in the written plan when it was registered in 2005. But the County still has to ‘assume’ them by formally [taking] over all responsibility for them. This is to be done with a municipal by-law, and is not usually done until the development is at least 50% completed, or after the topcoat is put on the roadway in question.

Until then, they have nothing. As everyone knows, it was far from half finished when Six Nations took it over. In the absence of that by-law, the roadways essentially remain with the Hennings.”

But, he continues, since the DCE plans have been abandoned and the Hennings were bought out by the province, it is even doubtful that Henco holds title.

Six Nations has always claimed that both the Plank Road agreement and the Haldimand Deed show underlying title. Does that mean Six Nations owns Surrey Street? That is a question that is still to be answered, but Hubert is sure Haldimand certainly does not and it is doubtful if Henco does either. The province only bought the lots, not the roadways.

When a Six Nations land protector and Hubert have asked Haldimand what evidence they might have to prove ownership of “Surrey Street,” they were told they would have to go through a freedom of information request to get that information.

“This is a municipal by-law we are talking about here and, as such, is public record,” says Hubert. “We were only told that to back us off, as far as I am concerned. If you’re going to hide by-laws, how is anyone going to know what’s going on?”

The TRT also requested the same documents that would prove title belongs to Haldimand, but after several attempts at both the Haldimand Municipal Office and the Ontario Land Registry, no such documents seem to exist, or if they do, no one seems to know anything about it.

To be fair, an employee told TRT that she thinks there is such a document somewhere, but did not know exactly where it might be.

As of this week, we have received nothing.

Mayor Ken Hewitt told TRT that as far as he knows, the roadway belongs to Haldimand, but he admits, “It’s a very grey area. I’m only going by what I have been told by our legal advisors and the province, but it is grey.”

Hubert has a long list of what he believes is manipulation of the rule of law in Haldimand to the advantage of a small but influential circle of individuals.

Documents show that lots purchased by the Province from Henco were not even owned by some builders until months into the DCE occupation, when the occupation interrupted ‘business as usual’, Hubert alleges. He also contends that some documents were filed well after the fact by the developer to cover up any wrongdoing.

Surrounded by a stack of letters and documents he has ferretted out to support his claims, Hubert adds, “What is interesting, regarding the DCE lands, is that the required agreement between Henco and the County, which was necessary before work on the development was to begin, was signed Nov. 29th, 2005, only two days before the Hennings registered 72 lots, the roadways, hydro and water systems. “Obviously construction was well underway long before it should have been, with Haldimand’s blessing,” according to Hubert.

The OMB hearing to decide if Hubert’s appeal to the huge Empire McClung housing project should be thrown out before Hubert’s arguments are heard, is set for the Haldimand County Office in Cayuga, located beside the County Court House on January 15th at 10:30 am. It is a public hearing, but is not included in the County’s list of upcoming public meetings.

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