Vancouver landowners launch lawsuit over Broadway subway project

Homeowners want more compensation from the BC Transportation Financing Authority

Owners of properties under redevelopment to build the Mount Pleasant subway station in Vancouver are suing a British Columbia government crown corporation seeking additional compensation for the land they surrendered so that the project can go ahead.

Broadway Main Investments Ltd. and Choo Brothers Investments Ltd., which are owned by two brothers, as well as 2501 Main Street Holdings Ltd. all filed complaints in the BC Supreme Court this summer against the BC Transportation Financing Authority.

The claims relate to five properties on or near the southwest corner of Main and Broadway, where Tim Hortons and adjacent businesses which included Verdura Salads, Noodle Box, Rosemary Rocksalt Bagels and La Taqueria Taco Shop used to. to exploit.

All buildings were demolished to prepare the site for Mount Pleasant Station, which is one of six new underground stations being built to accommodate the 5.7-kilometer extension of the Millennium Line.

The claim with the most money tied – nearly $ 14 million – is a joint action by Broadway Main Investments Ltd. and Choo Brothers Investments Ltd. for a property at 2509 Main Street and three adjoining lots on Broadway.

Erik Choo and Brian Choo are the directors and “operational minds” of the two companies, whose shareholding is held through family companies and trusts, according to the lawsuit filed in court on July 21.

The claim indicates that a check for $ 13,740,000 was paid on August 14, 2020 to Broadway Main Investments. But the company specifies in the document that it is “not an adequate compensation” given what it could have received on the market for an assembly of its four sites.

“The acquisition of the land resulted in the loss of value associated with the improved market resulting from the assembly for development of the land and adjoining land, which loss was suffered by the plaintiffs,” the claim states.

In a separate claim filed on August 11, 2501 Main Street Holdings Ltd. makes a similar argument, claiming that the check for $ 4,265,000 he received on August 21, 2020 for his property at the southwest corner of Main and Broadway was “less than the market value of the land and the required compensation. under the Expropriation Act.

Harvey Yen is listed as chairman and director of the holding company.

Lawyer C. Edward Hanman is acting on behalf of the two landowners on Main and Broadway. Ice cream media tried last week to contact Hanman by email and phone, but his assistant told him he was on vacation.

British Columbia’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure said in an email that it would not comment on specific cases in court. But the ministry stressed that it had not expropriated any property for the metro project, with all vested rights being obtained by consensual agreement under Article 3 of the Expropriation Law.

“As with all of our projects, any purchase of property is made in accordance with the law and market value,” the ministry said, noting that the government’s power to acquire land derives from the Transportation Act, with process and “compensation regime” described in the expropriation. Act.

“This law provides the option, by agreement, to allow early transfer of ownership to the project, but also gives an extended period of time for both parties to quantify the appropriate amount of compensation and resolve issues. “

Under an Article 3 agreement, to which all parties involved in the cases in question have agreed, the government pays the owner a deposit “which represents the compensation which can be quantified at the time”, a declared the ministry.

A homeowner then has one year after paying the advance to file a civil action, which preserves an owner’s right to continue to determine compensation – which attorney Evan Cooke did on behalf of its clients, 396 East 2nd Avenue Holdings Ltd.

Cooke filed a civil lawsuit on July 15. The three directors – Cam Grieve, Shenoor Jadavji and Steve Krilanovich – are associated with Lotus Capital Corp., according to an ownership research conducted by Glacier Media.

The Brunswick Apartment Building at 396 East 2nd Ave. in Vancouver. Photo Mike Howell

The claim concerns the government demanding land under the Brunswick apartment building at 396 East 2nd Avenue for tunneling purposes. A deposit of $ 461,000 was paid to owners on September 17, 2020.

“At the time of the filing of the notice of civil claim, the project had not yet started on the property in question, and all the physical and financial impacts of the project and the loss of the expropriated rights were not yet fully known.” , indicates the complaint. .

“It is anticipated that the subject property and apartment building will suffer physical damage as a result of the project, and the owner is expected to suffer substantial financial loss, costs and damage. “

The Brunswick is a 53-unit, four-storey building constructed in the late 1970s. It is located just south of the Great Northern Way, behind St. Francis Xavier School. The property is a short walk from what will be the Great Northern Way-Emily Carr station.

A government map of the subway route shows that the tunnel will descend from Main and Broadway and pass under Brunswick Street, which is located on the west side of the building.

In an interview last week, Cooke said he understands there are no immediate plans to redevelop Brunswick, but noted that any future redevelopment could affect the construction of a deep underground parking lot.

There could also be restrictions on what owners could develop on the surface of the property, given that a metro was going under the lot, he said.

“There may be rules such as’ You can never build on this tunnel ‘or’ You cannot put parking on top of this tunnel ‘- or sometimes, more loosely,’ You can’t do anything on this tunnel. our tunnel without getting our prior written consent, which we may never give to you if we don’t think it’s reasonable, ”Cooke said.

He said he filed a claim on July 15 to meet the one-year deadline under the Expropriation Act. So basically, Cooke added, “it’s like stepping in the door to make sure the rights of homeowners are protected.”

Cooke said it could be several years before a settlement occurs, noting that it took nine years to finalize a case involving a customer who lost property during the construction of the Canada Line. He also has an outstanding claim related to the construction of the Evergreen line.

“There is really no strategic advantage for a landowner rushing to resolve a claim where it is a partial take of their land, as what you have left can be affected from a market value perspective. , but there can also be physical damage to the earth, “he said.

Cooke said he recently resolved two consent cases with owners along the subway ride. Aside from the complaints filed regarding the Mount Pleasant station, he said he was not aware of any other legal scuffles over the subway, although he anticipated more.

“I don’t know what the percentage is along Broadway, but I have no doubt that there are a handful of landlords who have claimed, and then there would also be potentially tenants who have claims,” ​​he said. he declared.

In a matter unrelated to the subway project last year, Cooke acted on behalf of the Sahota family in a settlement negotiated by the City of Vancouver to secure the Balmoral and Regent hotels in the Downtown Eastside. No price has been communicated by the city, with Ice cream media still awaiting a response to a request made last year under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act for details of the deal.

The SkyTrain project will run above ground along the False Creek Plains from the existing VCC-Clark station to a tunnel portal near the Great Northern Way. The cars will then travel through a three-mile tunnel to Broadway and Main, and then to Arbutus Street.

The opening of the new line is scheduled for 2025.

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