On the Fence: CN Asks City for Funding to Secure its Property from Dumping

By Ryan McGreal
Published June 17, 2009

Ward 4 Councillor Sam Merulla has set a chain(link) of events in motion with a request to CN Rail to clean its property near Strathearne Ave. and Vansitmart Ave. on behalf of a neighbouring resident who currently volunteers to clear the area of dumped garbage and debris.

The resident, Kate Humphrey, has contacted CN Rail's maintenance division to complain about the dumped couches, TVs, carpets and so on, but made no progress. She would like to see a fence installed to deter would-be dumpers.

CN responded by asking whether the city would be "responsive to cost sharing the installation of a new chain link fence" and then assuming responsibility to maintain the fence - since it's city residents who are complaining about the litter.

The city replied by noting that CN owns the property and is responsible for maintaining it - including installing a fence if necessary.

CN then protested that it "is doing all it can at the moment to keep illegal dumping at bay. In order to address any type of security fencing, such as chain link, the City must become an equal partner."

(While we're at it, my house would surely look nicer with a new paint job. I may call on the city to become an "equal partner" in tendering a contract to some College Pro Painters over the summer months.)

City traffic engineering and operations manager Hart Solomon replied directly to the follow-up request from Merulla's office, pointing out that according to the city's legal department, "if the City were to fund part of the cost of any fencing [for CN Rail], that would be considered bonusing under the Municipal Act, and that is considered illegal."

Solomon added that this would set "a very difficult precedent, in that the railway would be back to the City every time there was an issue, asking for more funding."

He noted at the same time that CN would also be setting a potentially troublesome precedent by agreeing to the city's request to install a fence, as they are responsible for the safety and security of the rail line and there is currently no specific requirement to secure the property with a fence as such.

In response, Merulla announced that he will consider bringing forth a motion to council to adopt a city-wide policy on securing rail properties across the city. In a reply to RTH, he explained that it "should perhaps be a shared responsibility between the city, CN and CP [Rail]." CP Rail also manages rail lines in Hamilton.

A city-wide policy that treats all affected businesses equally would avoid the charge of bonusing.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By JonC (registered) | Posted June 17, 2009 at 11:07:36

If a couch sits on my yard, I'll get a warning and then a fine. I don't understand why a different standard is being applied to CN. CN doesn't have to install a fence, but eventually it's going to cost them more in tickets than a fence would cost.

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 17, 2009 at 11:51:14

this is sweet. I'm going to knock out my house windows, peel off the paint, let the lawn go to heck, and then ask the city to pay for my renos, new garden and paint job.

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By H Mag (anonymous) | Posted June 17, 2009 at 13:51:08

Jason said "this is sweet. I'm going to knock out my house windows, peel off the paint, let the lawn go to heck, and then ask the city to pay for my renos, new garden and paint job."

Hey jason - don't tread on LIUNA's cashcow.

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By bugaboo (anonymous) | Posted June 18, 2009 at 11:34:29

This is crazy. When will the City of Hamilton get serious about enforcing basic standards on property owners. I don't care if they are LIUNA, CN, CP, Vranich, or your mom and pop corner store - there are some basic rules and we need to start standing by them. If every scenario is considered a unique exception the rules mean nothing.

If we're not going to enforce bylaws, issues warnings and subsequent fines we should just do away with the rules and the dozens of staff who are not enforcing them and call it quits.

Get some balls City and demand fair treatment from these losers.

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