ANNAPOLIS ROYAL, N.S. - Justice Jamie Campbell has ruled that legislation preventing one municipality from expropriating property owned by another municipality applies in the case involving Valley Waste and the County of Annapolis.
“The County of Annapolis did not have the authority to expropriate the property,” the conclusion of a written decision released by Campbell Nov. 28 reads.
Campbell’s decision relates to a Supreme Court of Nova Scotia proceeding that brought lawyers representing both parties to the Annapolis Royal courthouse Nov. 20.
“Municipalities should not be litigating amongst themselves about expropriations. Expropriating the land legally held by Valley Waste directly engages the interests not only of Valley Waste but of the other members of Valley Waste,” wrote Campbell.
The other members of the Valley Region Solid Waste-Resource Management Authority are: the Municipality of the County of Kings, Town of Annapolis Royal, Town of Berwick, Town of Wolfville, Town of Middleton and Town of Kentville.
These parties filed an application for a judicial review of the decision of Annapolis County Council to expropriate Valley Waste’s western transfer station in Lawrencetown.
“The application for judicial review is granted,” states Campbell’s conclusion.
“If the parties are not able to agree on costs I will hear them on that matter.”
The recent Supreme Court of Nova Scotia proceeding largely focused on the interpretation of the word municipality as it appears in section 52 (1) of the Municipal Government Act (MGA), which states that a municipality is not authorized to expropriate property owned by another municipality.
“The interests of municipalities are protected as a way of avoiding costly conflicts between units. Of course, no one would want that,” reads Campbell’s decision.
“That section does not say that the property must be owned exclusively by a municipality or whether the interest in the property may be through participation in or membership in another entity,” the judge adds in a subsequent paragraph.
Frank DeMont, the lawyer representing the six municipalities still served by Valley Waste, argued that the authority would be considered a municipality within the context of Section 52 of the MGA as it is a product of an inter-municipal services agreement and, therefore, controlled and owned by partnering municipalities.
Bruce Gillis, legal counsel for the Municipality of the County of Annapolis, disagreed. He contended that Valley Waste is a separate corporate entity.
Campbell’s decision supported the arguments presented on behalf of the Valley Waste members represented by DeMont.
“This is the kind of dispute that (section) 52(1) of the MGA was intended to avoid,” said Campbell.
Campbell agreed with DeMont’s assertion that the word municipality applies to Valley Waste when the context of the MGA section in question is considered.
“Valley Waste was created entirely by municipalities for a specific municipal purpose. It was created… as a unique kind of corporate body for the purpose of allowing for municipal cooperation,” he said.
“Valley Waste does not operate as an independent entity but as a delegate of authority from the parties that created it. Those parties are ultimately responsible for the financial consequences of the collective decisions made by their representatives who serve on the board of Valley Waste.”
Campbell’s ruling goes on to state that “the property held by Valley Waste is, for purposes of (section 52 (1) of the MGA) the property ‘of a municipality.’”
Kings County Mayor Peter Muttart offered a written statement following the release of the court decision Nov. 28.
“As one of the six municipalities with a vested interest in this case, we are pleased with the decision,” said Muttart.
“Our goal always was and continues to be working collaboratively with Annapolis County since they have exited the (inter-municipal services agreement).”
County of Annapolis CAO John Ferguson said the municipality intends to file an appeal in relation to the decision.
“We’re appealing,” he said in a brief phone interview Nov. 28.
“We are pleased that the decision did say that Valley Waste is to act like a municipality in respect to part 19 of the Municipal Government Act, which basically means that they were supposed to get commitments on the contracts that started this whole matter from the beginning.”
Some other points raised in Campbell’s written court decision:
- The transfer station property was deeded to Valley Waste for no compensation to serve the County of Annapolis, Town of Annapolis Royal, Town of Middleton and parts of western Kings County. “That land was originally owned by those municipalities as tenants-in common.”
- Campbell’s decision did not relate to the ongoing dispute between the two parties: “The rights and wrongs of that dispute are not relevant to the precise question raised in the judicial review. The parties have provided information about their respective positions in what seems to be an ongoing and rancorous row.”
- Annapolis County presented Valley Waste with an offer of compensation, among many documents, after council authorized the expropriation. “The amount offered by Annapolis County was $345,320. That was calculated by taking the appraised value of $437,000 and deducting Annapolis County’s 21 per cent interest of $91,770.”
- “The parties still dispute whether Annapolis County’s withdrawal from the agreement can be made effective before the expiration of a one-year period.”