March 21, 2012 —
Update as of March 21: According to Friends of Toronto co-chair Mary Ann Burke, a judge has dismissed a requiest for an injunction to keep the public off of The Chapin Estate easement that leads to the reservoir, and Alliance has promised to remove the rock wall as sooon as possible.
They have gathered for protests several times since 2005 to protest the blockage of the road that leads to a public access and boat launch at the Toronto Reservoir. They gathered once again on March 17, about two months after Judge Michael H. Melkonian ruled that the public must be allowed to cross the old road in The Chapin Estate to get to the reservoir. Melkonian ruled that Alliance Energy Renewables, which owns the reservoir, was granted an eminent domain easement to the water.
But, like everything about this story that has been unfolding over the past 10 years, nothing is as straightforward as it first might seem. Around 2005, developer Steve Dubrovsky built a three-foot rock wall in front of the road, and piled a lot of dirt on it. Now there is some disagreement about who, if anyone, is responsible for taking down the rock wall and making the road passable again.
Undersheriff Eric Chaboty, who accompanied the protestors to the wall, said that question was a matter for Alliance and Dubrovsky to settle. However, when Nino Nannarone, co-chairperson of Friends of Toronto, asked if they could climb over the wall, Chaboty said yes, and pointed out the boundaries of the easement.
With that, about a dozen residents helped each other over the wall, and headed off in the direction of the reservoir.
Several years ago when Chaboty was at the site, the district attorney at the time determined that there was no public right to get to the reservoir, and Chaboty advised residents not to cross the wall or they would be trespassing.
The thing that brought the whole matter to a head is money. Alliance wants to sell the reservoir, along with the Swinging Bridge Reservoir and hydroelectric plant, to another company. But the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) refused to allow transfer of the permit until the public access was opened to the public.
Alliance has now told FERC that because the judge has ruled, the public has access, and Alliance would like to proceed with the transfer. But the Friends of Toronto have asked FERC not to grant the transfer until someone gets rid of the stone wall. Because, with the wall in place, very few members of the public will be willing to trek the 1.8 miles to the reservoir and no one will be able to take advantage of the boat launch.
Dubrovsky meanwhile has appealed the decision to the appellate court and is reportedly seeking an injunction to prevent members of the public from crossing the wall and walking to the reservoir.