by Chris Pickup

An unsolicited attempt by an absentee landowner to purchase part of the road allowance at the south end of Concession 1 in Lowbanks has raised a ruckus with neighbouring landowners, who currently enjoy the neighbourly feel to the neighbourhood, visiting back and forth with no fences.

The approximately third of an acre abuts property owned by Joseph Mussari on the west of the road allowance. Mussari indicated he wished to acquire the road allowance to add to his own property in order to install erosion control measures to enable future residential development.

The road allowance is currently used as public access to the lake and voluntarily maintained by members of the Mohawk Heights Estates association. Everyone from the community as well as visitors to the area easily access the lake and enjoy the view to Mohawk Island and the historical lighthouse on it.

“With an unknown speculator in control of the access to the lake there is a high risk for adverse effects to the community here as well as any visitors of the area who want access the lake,” states Association president Tom Schultz.

Several of the neighbours enjoy an easement over the subject lands which they fear would be put at risk in the event of a sale. The nature of the easement is diverse but includes the right to use the subject lands for the purposes of accessing the lakeshore, bird-watching, picnicking, riding bicycles, walking, playing games such as frisbee, and camping, according to a lawyer’s letter.

In addition, the area is subject to high and intense erosion as a result of significant wave action off Lake Erie, which currently may be two meters or more per year. If the use increases from the present light recreational, it could result in further intensified degradation of the shoreline area and increased ecological and environmental damage.

One neighbour who said he had spoken with Mussari several times, referred to him as a potential land speculator who indicated he would go ahead and build a proper break wall to be allowed to build several homes, and that if he was successful with his bid for the road allowance he would force the neighbour through the courts to build a connecting wall.

He charged Mussari took a gamble on hazardous dangerous land he has not even cut the grass on.

County staff were solidly against the sale. The economic development and tourism  division maintained waterfront access should be retained by the county as pubic access space along the waterfront.

The planning and development division said the applicant’s intended use of the lands to support residential development is not appropriate given the current designation (agricultural) and could be viewed as an attempt to expand the resort residential node in an unjustified manner.

It was also noted a road allowance cannot be fenced off. It is publicly owned land, and roads are treated in a special manner by municipalities as they allow public access from one point to another.

Council voted unanimously not to sell. However three ominous little letters, OMB (Ontario Municipal Board), perked CAO Don Boyle to attention. The Mussaris indicated they were awarded the land they own by the OMB, though they did not elaborate on the circumstances.

Therefore, while reaffirming the original motion not to sell, Boyle proposed an amendment to the motion which was also passed, directing staff to meet with the applicants on a break wall solution and report back to council.