A citizen was disputing the fact that her borough was refusing to let her continue occupying the alley located behind her residence. This occupation of the alley, by her as well as many other residents, was taking place without the consent of the Borough Council or the Municipal Council, whom are yet the only entities having the authority to consent to the sale or the occupation of such public property.

The study of the file revealed that, in 1995, the citizen’s spouse had undertaken a procedure so that the bordering residents could purchase and occupy this alley belonging to the city. The Service de l’approvisionnement et des immeubles of Ville de Montréal at the time had, however, objected categorically to this request because public utility still in operation was implanted below the alley in question.

Despite this refusal, the residents started occupying the alley. They built fences and sheds on public property. The citizen indicated that, at the time, a municipal councilor from her borough would have told her he was not opposed to this.

All of the parties involved have recognized that, in this borough, citizens have encroached on public property in many alleys, sometimes, for many years. And in most cases, neither the city nor, more recently, the borough, have intervened to demand the removal of the fences and sheds built on public property.

The Ombudsman de Montréal therefore looked very closely to the circumstances for which, in this particular case, the borough had decided to send a notice to residents, demanding that the illegal encroachment cease and the restoration of the site. We conferred with many of the city representatives, analysed the borough’s entire file and even went on site, to see the present situation.

Our inquiry showed that it was the breach of a pipe, in another alley located nearby, that prompted the borough officials to make a close study on public utility pipes in this area and on the problem of illegal encroachment.

Following the breach of a pipe, approximately two years ago, the borough requested that its Direction des travaux publics carry out a preliminary study on the state of municipal sewage. This study showed that in at least 25 different places, the sewage located below the alleys was in an advanced state of degradation.

The Direction des travaux publics sensitised the borough to the fact that when breaches would occur, the teams deployed to make the repairs would have a lot of difficulty intervening quickly and efficiently, due to the presence of fences and sheds above the sewage. Indeed, before they gain access to the sewage, the employees would need to move, or destroy, all obstacles installed by the residents.

Despite the resulting inconvenience for the bordering residents, the Ombudsman de Montréal is of the opinion that the borough is justified in demanding that the illegal encroachment cease.

We must emphasise that the borough committed itself to proceed with respect and empathy for the people involved. Representatives will meet with the owners concerned to discuss of a reasonable schedule for the removal of all of the installations encroaching the alley.

Furthermore, we have reminded the citizen that when they reinstall their fences and other installations, it will be important to make sure that the compulsory standards in regards to the height and positioning of these installations, in relation to the borders of the lot, be strictly respected.

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