The St. Charles Lake provides half the potable water used by
Québec City. When nutrients from human activity began to
create plagues of toxic bacteria, the City enacted a by-law
requiring owners of lakefront property to put in 10-15 metre buffer
zones comprised of trees, bushes and other plants, along the
river's edge. These buffer zones will help keep nutrients and
erosion out of the water. In Wallot v. Québec, shore land owners
challenged the City's authority to adopt the by-law, and argued
that it amounted to disguised expropriation.
The Québec Court of Appeal has now dismissed an appeal by the property owners,
and upheld the bylaw.
Under the Municipal Powers Act, local municipalities
may adopt by-laws on environmental matters. The court held that the
City has the power to adopt the by-law, and had exercised its
discretion in a reasonable manner. The by-law provisions do not
totally take away the plaintiffs' enjoyment of property rights,
although the forest buffer substantially affects part of their
properties. There was no evidence that the City acted in bad faith
or for anything but the collective interest.
" Although greatly reduced, the owner retains a
certain enjoyment of the area renaturalized. This state of affairs
can not be equated with actual possession of the shoreline by the
municipal authority." Some pruning is allowed in the
naturalized area. Vegetation can be cut within 4 m around a
building or structure. A "green window" of cut vegetation
can be maintained, up to 10 m wide, and a 1 m path may be cut to
the river. The municipality has not taken possession of the
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