Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/6/2009 (2962 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
They bought the cabin on Brookfield Road, put on an addition, built a garage and a shed, and made other upgrades to prepare for their golden years.
Then they made a horrifying discovery: They didn't actually own the cabin. The cabin, they found out this spring, is on a road easement. A road easement, also called a road allowance, is land set aside for a possible future road. That means the lot and cabin are not owned by the Pinels but are on Crown land, controlled by the municipality.
That has touched off a heated battle between the couple and the RM of Whitemouth. Seven Sisters Falls is about 85 kilometres east of Winnipeg.
"You know the Nightmare on Elm Street? This is the Nightmare on Brookfield Road," said Sylvie Pinel.
"The first month after we found out, we couldn't sleep."
The fiasco also has some domino effect with a neighbour. Brian Lawes thought he was living on Lot 4. It turns out it's Lot 5. "I've been paying taxes on the wrong piece of land for 37 years," said Lawes, 80.
The cabin in question was built on the road easement over 30 years ago.
To resolve the situation, the Pinels, who live in Winnipeg, wrote to the RM of Whitemouth offering to pay a nominal fee for the road easement.
"They turned us down," Sylvie said.
That led to a meeting last month between the RM and the seven landowners on Brookfield Road.
The RM offered to cut a deal with the Pinels but it's an expensive one. The RM would move the road easement to empty Lot 4, thereby giving the Pinels legal ownership of the cabin.
But in exchange, the seven landowners in the subdivision would have to split $10,000 to $15,000 in costs, according to a letter from the RM to the Pinels. Those costs include things like surveying, amending road opening and closing bylaws (costing up to $2,000, the letter says), and legal fees (up to $5,500). The RM would also pay one-seventh of costs.
The RM gave property owners until this past Friday to agree to the deal but indications are residents are refusing because, they argue, they are not at fault. Also, most of them are not affected by the road easement issue.
"What's the point of a survey to end up with the same problem?" said Sylvie. "The cabin is still on the road easement."
The Pinels face being stuck with the entire cost, which they cannot afford.
Scott Spicer, chief administrator for the RM, is reluctant to speak, he said, because the Pinels have talked about hiring a lawyer. However, he said there is no Plan B if landowners reject the deal. It will be up to council to decide what happens with the Pinels, he said.
"I'm just trying to provide them with a way to solve their problem," he said.
Several residents on Brookfield said they don't think the RM is trying hard enough, and that its offer is chintzy. A person from the area said it was suspected decades ago, when the cottage was first built, that it was not in the proper place.
Allan Besel, councillor for the RM, said there have been a few questionable buildings and surveyed lots in the RM. One issue surfaced a few years ago where property lines elsewhere in the RM were out by 50 feet.
"It certainly wasn't the RM that subdivided those properties (on Brookfield Road). It was almost unorganized territory back then," Besel said, according to his research.
"The RM never got a planning district until 1997," he said. That meant building construction was nearly pell-mell. The planning district now requires that people present to a planning committee before any new construction or subdivision is approved.
The Pinels say the municipality is not acknowledging the mistake it made 30 years ago in letting a previous owner build a cottage on the road easement.
"They are being stubborn and unreasonable and I don't understand it," she said. "If this doesn't get resolved, I'm losing $70,000 (what the Pinels have paid for the purchase and building upgrades)."
A survey is typically required in property purchases to obtain a mortgage but the Pinels never got one because they didn't need a mortgage. They used the same lawyer as the vendor.