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Irricana's lawsuit with resident over buried stormwater pipe concludes

An email from the Town's lawyer indicated the court “dismissed the entirety of Katelnikoff’s claim,” and added the plaintiff “had not proven that the Town of Irricana was negligent and had not proven any of her alleged damages.”
The Town of Irricana won its recent lawsuit with a resident that involved a dispute over a buried storm water drainage pipe.

There have been further developments in an ongoing legal dispute between the Town of Irricana and a local resident.

But there may be even further updates in the near future, based on statements issued by both parties.

According to the Town’s lawyer Lee Carter, the municipality’s dispute over a buried storm water drainage pipe discovered on resident Stephanie Katelnikoff’s property went to trial in early August. It was followed by another court appearance in late September.

The dispute between Katelnikoff and the Town dates back to the summer of 2021, when she first discovered the buried pipe after building a fence for her backyard in Irricana. Katelnikoff claimed the utility was unregistered on her land title or property report, and it caused her yard to flood whenever it rained heavily.

“It wasn’t on the property report, it wasn’t registered on the title, but when it rained, water started coming out of the pipe,” she said in a previous interview with the Rocky View Weekly. “The concrete swales on all the properties to the north of me were also buried underneath mud. Since I’d dug mine and exposed it to put the fence in, it kind of ran into a dam on the neighbour’s property and started flooding my property.”

After reaching out to the Town about the issue, Katelnikoff said the municipality’s employees initially agreed to help remove the utility, but later denied responsibility over the pipe. She eventually capped the line to stop the flooding by diverting the water from her property out to the street.  

After the Town and Katelnikoff continued to disagree over whose responsibility the pipe was, Katelnikoff sought an order that required the municipality to remove the utility.

She filed an originating application against the Town, alleging the municipality did not have a registered right of way for the buried infrastructure.

Katelnikoff and the Town went to court twice over the issue, in December 2021 and then again in January of this year. Following the hearing in January, the matter was delayed until this past August.

An email from Carter that was forwarded by the Town to the Rocky View Weekly summarized that the court “dismissed the entirety of Katelnikoff’s claim,” and added the plaintiff “had not proven that the Town of Irricana was negligent and had not proven any of her alleged damages.”

The dispute’s most recent court appearance was on Sept. 23.

According to Carter, the Justice who heard the case dismissed Katelnikoff’s claim, stating the storm water drainage pipe was registered properly, that the Town did not have a registered right of way for the utility, that the municipal employee who intended to collect the water sample did not trespass, and that Katelnikoff did not adequately prove the pipe was a safety hazard, as it had been installed for over 20 years without incident.

Carter went on to say the Court has ordered Katelnikoff to pay the Town costs as a result of the Justice's findings.

“The Town incurred costs in renting equipment to clear the debris,” he wrote, adding the municipality did not charge Katelnikoff or any of the other residents to clear the debris.

In his email, Carter stated that when Katelnikoff first complained about alleged flooding on her property, the Town of Irricana sent its public works department to clear some debris that had accumulated in the concrete swale.

“The Town of Irricana also tried to obtain a water sample from the concrete swale after Ms. Katelnikoff alleged that the water contained an oil film. When the public works employees arrived to collect the water sample, Ms. Katelnikoff called the RCMP complaining of trespass[ing].”

Carter concluded his email by stating the Town of Irricana “will be seeking its costs against Ms. Katelnikoff in accordance with the Alberta Rules of Court.”

When reached for comment in early October, Katelnikoff said she was disappointed with the outcome.

“The Town forced and encouraged me to litigate a problem that could have been solved easily and amicably,” she wrote in an email. “It started out well enough, but a series of unfortunate events unfolded. I was no longer able to self-represent in court after sustaining a concussion during the assault at the Town Office.”

Katelnikoff went on to say in her email she felt her lawyer was unprepared for the hearing on Aug. 23, suggesting to her they try to get out of the hearing and go to a binding judicial dispute resolution instead. After she declined that offer, she said her counsel was fact-corrected multiple times and even starting arguing the Town’s points.

“The outcome was unfortunate, but by no means an indication of the reality of the situation,” she wrote. “I think the Town knows that, and I don’t think they care.”

Katelnikoff also denied the judge’s remarks that the storm pipe in her yard had functioned without incident for 20 years and was not a safety hazard.

She said she is awaiting transcripts from the most recent hearing, and intends to file an appeal in the future.

“The Justice seemed to have misunderstood a lot of key facts, though given what he was working with, I do not entirely blame him,” she wrote. 

“As for the small claim, I find it ironic that the Town is advertising this ‘win’ under the guise of ‘increased transparency’ while failing to mention that the small claims cost award was $100.”

Katelnikoff concluded her email by arguing the legal dispute “wasn’t a win for anyone” in Irricana, as it cost needless taxpayer dollars.

“Further, the Judge found that I failed to prove my case, not that I did not have a case,” she added. “He wanted expert evidence; I assumed the pictures of the flooding spoke for themselves.

“I had, and still have, a very good case. I had, and still have, flooding in my yard. I wholly believe that the facts and the truth will come out in the end. That hasn't happened yet so it is not the end.”

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