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Residents want River Road returned to community.

A group of Newport citizens are upset that the county has sold a closed portion of River Road to two property owners who have now fenced off the road to the public.

The road was closed in 2007 when the nearby bank of the Grand River collapsed, shuttering the Newport Community Centre and forcing two homes to be abandoned. Since then, the unused road has been the scene of dumping and car fires.

A 2009 Municipal Class Environmental Assessment study established the conditions for the closure of the road but residents seemed to be unaware that the county could subsequently deem the road surplus and sell it or gift it to adjacent landowners.

The latter was the scenario that took place in October 2010, with the county handing over the closed road to adjacent neighbours at an in-camera meeting.

In the meantime, nearby residents had used the closed portion of road for dog walking, horseback riding, hiking, and quiet outdoor excursions, including those for a wheelchair user and an accident victim.

Joanna McMorrow and Sandy Weir presented a 80-name petition to council on Nov. 1 and asked the county to hold another environmental assessment on the property in a bid to expropriate the road and have it declared a public walkway. They complained that the county disposed of the property behind closed doors without properly notifying the rest of the community.

"We feel the community was blindsided," McMorrow told council. "We weren't asked our input at all. The county didn't realize it was a much-used road in our community ... Newport deserves a fair chance to right what we feel was a wrong. "

"It's very very unfortunate the way this situation has proceeded. We regret that you do not have use of that roadway," Mayor Ron Eddy said.

McMorrow said that one of the new owners of the section of closed road is willing to discuss an arrangement for public use; the other one said they had not been contacted by the county.

Council voted to proceed with a Municipal Class Environmental Assessment for a public walkway on the closed section of River Road.

It is unclear whether the rules for Municipal Class EAs allow the outcome that the group of residents is asking for.
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Publication:Paris Chronicle (Paris, Canada)
Date:Nov 25, 2011
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