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LETTER: Zone 1 water in Horseshoe Valley is not private

Those who think otherwise are 'poorly informed,' says letter writer
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Access to potable water is a fundamental right in Ontario. Anybody can obtain a permit to take water (PTTW). Permits are issued under the Ontario Water Resources Act and a Water Taking Regulation (O. Reg. 387/04).

If water taking occurs on someone else’s property, ministry regulations state, “If you don’t own the land on which you will be installing a pump or other equipment for taking water, you must obtain written permission from the landowner.” Permission is granted by an agreement, or through an easement.

Water supply to all Horseshoe Valley households comes from two sets of wells located on private resort property.

The water system at Horseshoe was established about 50 years ago. According to engineers, “The Horseshoe community is served by an interconnected, two-zone water system, operated in partnership with the Township of Oro-Medonte.” (Geospec, 2002, p. 2).

A PTTW was taken by the resort for Zone 1. It supplies water for commercial, irrigation/snow making, and municipal purposes. The ministry says that this public utility has been providing water to both the ski resort and to neighbouring subdivisions since the early 1980s.

The township has, by agreement, acquired a PTTW on resort property. This has provided water primarily to Zone 2, but also to Zone 1, as it was designed to do, since the late 1980s.

In 1989, the ministry issued a certificate for an interconnection valve between the two zones. This valve has been used periodically. Most recently, the well supply for Zone 1 was interrupted late in 2022, when a storm damaged the Zone 1 well pump. This resulted in a boil-water advisory for Zone 1 residents and also for the resort. The matter was resolved quickly when the interconnection valve was opened and Zone 2 supplied treated water to Zone 1 and to the resort, while the Zone 1 well pump issue was resolved.

Permission to use resort property for water is provided by three agreements: the Water Rights Guarantee Agreement (WRGA) of 1980 (registered on July 27, 1981 as Instrument No. 37845); Subdivision Agreement 51M-391 (registered on Aug. 3, 1989 as Instrument No. 151526); and the Oro Water Agreement of 1990 (registered on Oct. 31, 1990 as Instrument No. 185779).

Permission is required when the township takes water from resort-owned property. In 1980, the WRGA was registered against hundreds of acres of land owned by the resort, giving rights and permission to the municipality to take water in perpetuity. This 1980 agreement requires the resort to operate, maintain, repair, and insure the water system.

The public has free access to property records that have this agreement registered. Instrument No. 37845 (the WRGA) is registered on a total of 168 properties, all located within the Horseshoe settlement area, some being in the township-operated Zone 2 municipal water area.

Some property identification numbers (PINs) are located on resort lands. These include the Horseshoe Resort Inn and Slopeside condominiums, both being in Zone 1. Many PINs are located in Zone 2. Of the 168 identified “active” PINs, 98 are on Slopeside condos on resort property in Zone 1.

Zone 2 homeowners on Valleycrest Drive, Dale Court, Hillside Court, and part of Highland Drive also have the WRGA registered on their properties. In other words, this 1980 Zone 1 agreement, the WRGA, has been used to provide water for parts of the Zone 2 municipal system, thereby permanently connecting the two-zone Horseshoe water system.

Because the WRGA includes all of the subdivisions on the Medonte side of Horseshoe Valley Road, easements are not required by these property owners. The original subdivision on the Oro side of Horseshoe Valley Road, RP 1587, is also included in the WRGA, given that the Zone 1 water mains from the standpipe flow through the streets in 1587 (Country Club Lane and Birch Grove Drive). These properties also do not need easements subject to the WRGA. The WRGA has provided water to all these property owners since 1980, through this Medonte contract with Horseshoe.

Subdivision Agreement 51M-391 has its own provisions for water in Instrument No. 151526. All 78 properties within this Zone 2 water area have this instrument attached to their property title.

The third agreement, the Oro Water Agreement (Instrument No. 185779), is registered on 210 Zone 2 properties in Plan 51M-456. According to the former director of development services, the township has never assumed the waterworks for this entire plan, 33 years after they were constructed, leaving ownership in the hands of the resort (Oro-Medonte, 2021). Records also show that the Oro Water Agreement was terminated on April 1, 1996, by the township. This adds a very strange wrinkle to the Zone 2 water story.

The recent water controversy at Horseshoe is about Zone 1 joining Zone 2, at a very substantial cost to Zone 1 households. According to land titles data, Zone 1 water users joined the Zone 2 water system many years ago. In addition, about 70 property owners in Zone 2 are supplied water under provisions in the WRGA, an agreement that was executed by the former Township of Medonte, primarily for the benefit of Zone 1 water users. Even the Zone 2 elevated water tower has the WRGA registered on its title.

In a nutshell, wells, pumps, mains, hydrants and storage for Zone 2 were registered on title by Medonte Township years before the Zone 2 portion of the water system was even built.

It is clear from thorough searches of public records that zones 1 and 2 are both part of one large, interconnected, municipal year-round residential water system. Those who suggest that the Zone 1 portion of the water system is “private” and “non-municipal” are poorly informed. The historical record provides the true story.

Larry Herr
Oro-Medonte Township