A makeshift pathway connecting the Kissing Bridge Trail and Bolender Park in Elmira is being removed after the township and property owner failed to come to an agreement.
The two are also at odds over a municipal waterline that runs through the 86 Auto and Metal Recyclers property on Arthur Street – an investigation revealed there was never an easement reached allowing access to the site.
The pair of trespassing issues come in the wake of uncertainties about methane from an old municipal dump under part of the site and the park itself. The extent of the methane problem is still under review, as are methods for dealing with it.
Woolwich is waiting on input from the Ministry of the Environment at this point, a process that has dragged on.
The delays are part of the frustration for property owner Frank Rattasid, who has come across roadblocks in his attempts to operate a metal recycling operation at 39 Arthur St. N. Faced with what he calls a lack of cooperation from Woolwich officials, the township’s incursions on his land – the pathway and the water line – are all the more troublesome, he says.
Clouding matters are ongoing efforts to test for methane on the site, an issue that Rattasid notes he was assured was no longer a problem. Woolwich had in fact removed a pump-driven venting system that had been installed years ago, before a problem was discovered anew.
“I have a problem that I didn’t think I had. This is not my problem,” he said Tuesday.
Facing inconveniences and possible expenses, he said he’s like to see some compensation, either monetary or in the form of cooperation with his plans to expand the scope of the operation.
Currently, he operates the auto wrecking business on five of the 12 acres he owns. The other seven are zoned as open space, so can’t be used as part of the business. Among the many proposals he’s brought to the township is a plan to use five of the seven acres, turning over the remaining two acres to the township as a buffer zone between his site and the neighbours. That would also allow for a pathway and access for the water line.
He’s also floated other offers, including selling the seven acres to the township or perhaps even the entire site.
“I gave them a number. I thought it was a reasonable number, not much more than I spent for it,” said Rattasid, adding he sees future development potential for the site.
Woolwich chief administrative officer David Brenneman acknowledges that Rattasid has presented a number of scenarios, but said the details are a property issue that could only be discussed by councillors in a closed meeting.
“He certainly has made some proposals,” Brenneman said. “Mr. Rattasid is certainly always exploring options.”
On the issue of expanded uses at the site, he maintains the longstanding opinion that Rattasid will have to make a formal application for a zoning change or perhaps a minor variance before that can be considered.
“If he wants to diversify the use on the property or expand … he needs to make an application.”
He acknowledged that the methane is an issue. The township is looking to work with Rattasid to do more testing and to install some kind of methane-disbursement system down the road if necessary.
For his part, Rattasid maintains that a township proposal to use a trench system – as opposed to the former below-ground pumping option – could prove disruptive to his operation.
Brenneman counters that the township will look at ways to minimize the impact.
Work on the methane situation is in limbo, however, as they wait for the MOE to respond.
In the meantime, the township is looking at options for moving both the pathway to Bolender Park and the water line.
With the water line, engineering staff is looking at coming up with a “cost-effective way” to relocate the service.
Township rec. staff will be removing the makeshift bridges on township property and posting signs about trespassing, said Brenneman. The department is also looking at alternatives for connecting the trail to the park.
“Mr. Rattasid notified us he wanted to do some cleaning of the back part of his property. He had mentioned that he was going to take that out,” he said of this week’s removal of the pathway on private property.
“I want the trespassing to stop because there’s a liability aspect,” said Rattasid, noting there’s been no progress on his attempts to get the property in township hands, for instance.