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Quebec City has successfully defended a bylaw requiring private property owners to naturalize the shoreline of its water supply.

The St. Charles River, which flows into the lake of the same name, provides over half the potable water used by Quebec City.  A study revealed that the banks of the lake were eroding due to human activity, including structures within 20 metres of the shore. To protect the water supply, the City adopted a by-law requiring owners of lakefront property to put in 10-15 metre buffer zones composed of trees, bushes and other plants.  Owners of shore land challenged the City’s authority to adopt the by-law.

Clause 19 of the Municipal Powers Act provides that local municipalities may adopt by-laws on environmental matters.

Held: The City has the power to adopt the by-law, and exercised its discretion in a reasonable manner.  The by-law provisions do not totally take away the plaintiffs’ enjoyment of property rights.  The Court recognized that the forest buffer required by the by-law substantially affects part of the property.  There was no evidence that the City acted in bad faith or for anything but the collective interest.  Nor is the by-law disguised expropriation.

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