The Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Appeal Tribunal has ordered an appellant landowner, Alan Webster of Thornhill, Ontario to pay costs related to a motion brought by the City of Kawartha Lakes. Although the motion to dismiss by the City was unsuccessful, the Tribunal found that Webster had failed to abide by procedural directions made by the Tribunal, which led to the need for the motion.
Those procedural directions were given in the context of an agricultural drainage project that has been under appeal since 2006. The project involves the drainage of about 21,000 acres of land at approximately 400 landowners. There have been a total of 72 appeals to either the Drainage Referee or to the Appeal Tribunal. The only remaining outstanding proceeding is Webster's appeal to the Tribunal under section 48 of the Drainage Act. The Tribunal had exercised its discretion to intervene with procedural directions to case manage the remaining appeal through to an expeditious resolution. The Tribunal stated that expeditious resolution would benefit all of the 21,000 acres and 400 landowners potentially affected by the drainage project.
More than five years had passed since delivery of the original Engineer's Report. Webster had had more than five years to crystallize and refine his section 48 Appeal issues, marshal his evidence and defined his appeal strategy. Webster was self represented in the proceeding. The Tribunal found that Webster's failure to abide by simple and clear procedural directions was unreasonable. The Tribunal found that Webster was an educated, sophisticated and articulate litigant. The Tribunal was unable to suspend disbelief sufficient to accept the explanation Webster offered about why he failed to comply with the procedural order.
The City sought recovery of costs for the dismissal motion. The Tribunal ordered Webster to pay the costs of the City of Kawartha Lakein the amount of $7080.70. The Tribunal also ordered that the cost award be credited to the drain account and added to the tax roll, therefore having priority lien status under section 61 of the Drainage Act and section 1 of the Municipal Act.