Compromise reached on Brook St

A Simcoe family has reached a compromise of sorts with Norfolk County over a disputed parcel of land.Robert and Sandra Turnecliff of 109 Brook Street objected in June to the sale of the vacant lot to Habitat for Humanity Brant-Norfolk.The Turnecliffs had pursued the former Town of Simcoe and later Norfolk County to sell the lot, which is located beside their home at the southerly dead-end of Brook Street.This spring, the Turnecliffs and their neighbours were surprised to learn that Norfolk council agreed to sell the parcel to Habitat for Humanity for an affordable housing project. The Turnecliffs were especially upset because the sale would have left them with a sideyard measuring about three feet wide.In response to the Turnecliffs’ objections and a neighbourhood petition with more than 200 signatures, Norfolk council agreed this summer to sell the Turnecliffs a strip of land beside their garage with a frontage of six metres.“It’s not a bad amount,” Sandra Turnecliff said Tuesday. “It’s better than what we had.”The Turnecliffs say the county approached them after the June meeting with a take-it-or-leave it offer.The strip’s frontage measures six metres while the frontage for the Habitat lot measures 32 metres. The Turnecliffs were quick to notice that the county quoted them the same price Habitat paid — $15,000 — for a strip of land less than 20 per cent the size.“It was a deep sting,” Sandra Turnecliff said. “We get just under 20 feet of frontage and they get 103 feet for the same amount of money. And it still bothers everyone in the neighbourhood that there will be a house there.”The parcel at issue has several mature trees that will have to be cut down. Robert Turnecliff said his family has cut the grass and otherwise maintained the lot at no charge to the county for more than 20 years. He continues to be amazed that the county has given priority to an organization based in Brantford over a family that has paid taxes to the municipality for more than 20 years.“It’s a hollow victory,” he said.The Turnecliffs emphasize their assessment of the situation has nothing to do with Habitat for Humanity or the cause of affordable housing. They and their neighbours, they say, regard the vacant lot as a natural neighbourhood parkette. Residents several streets over, they said, are concerned about the trees because they are tall and stately and visible from a distance.In an interview in June, Simcoe Coun. Ian Rabbitts said council supported the Habitat proposal because the sale met several municipal objectives.These include compliance with provincial policies encouraging the construction of affordable housing, the densification of urban areas, and infilling to make efficient use of existing infrastructure.Rabbitts added the owners of the Habitat home will pay residential property taxes. Until recently, the vacant parcel represented a potential maintenance cost to the municipality.On a positive note, the Turnecliffs acknowledge that the county will not charge them for a survey, a boundary adjustment or legal fees. Amending land registry documents in this manner can cost several thousands of dollars.MSonnenberg@postmedia.com