A lawsuit filed by Former Calgary Flame and part-time valley resident Mike Vernon against the Village of Canal Flats over the stalled development of the Painted Ridge subdivision has been delayed for a year and a half.
The case, which was filed in 2008 by Vernon’s development company 391043 Alberta Ltd. for unspecified costs, was supposed to be heard in court this past June, but has been pushed back to January 2017.
“I can’t put a number on my losses, but they are pretty significant. Just the appraised value from a tax base is astronomical,” Vernon told The Echo. “I am 20 per cent of the tax base in that municipality and this is what I get in return — delays out the yin yang.”
The Echo contacted both Canal Flats chief administrative officer Brian Woodward and mayor Ute Juras for comment on the matter, but both said they can’t offer comment as the case is currently before the courts.
The lack of potable water for the subdivision — a major issue which has contributed to the holdup of Painted Ridge — should finally be solved this fall with the merger of the Canal Flats’ two water systems.
“The water merger was supposed to be done a year and a half ago,” said Vernon. “I don’t think the municipality has managed the process too well for it to be delayed that long. It raises a lot of concerns because I could not sell lots until I had approvable water.”
Vernon first proposed the Painted Ridge subdivision a decade ago.
“When I applied in 2005 to hook into the water utility at point of entry, which was potable, clean water, I should have been selling this thing in 2006, but now it is 2015,” he said. “Back in 2005 when I brought my project to the council, it was unanimous that they wanted it. All of a sudden, (former Canal Flats chief administrative officer) Rob Sabine (who is personally named in the lawsuit) came in and the brakes went on. It has been a nightmare ever since.”
Even though Sabine stopped working for the village, Vernon has still experienced what he feels are undue delays since then.
“This is partly due to the inadequacy of village staff to put things through promptly. It is not as if this municipality is busy. There are 700 people who live there, so it is not like this is a booming metropolis,” he said.
The Painted Ridge subdivision lots were subject to two covenants, one of which dictated that, without being hooked up to potable water, they could not be developed. Now that the subdivision’s water system is hooked up, the municipality has — as of two weeks ago — removed the covenant and development can proceed, which Mr. Vernon says he plans to do, if nothing else, to help offset his escalating legal costs, but he’s still not happy about the long holdup.
“With the covenants I had on my land (as long as) I did not have water, my lots were useless, and I was still paying over $100,000 in property taxes each year. I got nothing for it. It is absolutely absurd. You just do the math. Property values in 2006 were pretty high compared with now,” he said. “Bylaws get in the way and council gets in the way.”
This lawsuit is the second filed by Vernon’s company. The first case was decided in 2008. In it, B.C. Supreme Court judge Keith Bracken ruled that a bylaw adopted by Canal Flats council in 2006, which placed the Painted Ridge subdivision within the Canal Flats water servicing area, unfairly put the developer “in a position of being caught by the terms of the water bylaw that requires connection to the municipal water source, but no municipal source is available.”
The Painted Ridge subdivision was at that time three kilometres north of the furthest extent of the Canal Flats water system. Mr. Bracken ruled that the bylaw was correspondingly “unenforceable” for Painted Ridge.
Vernon said a good deal of his frustration over the situation stems from watching others do with ease what he has been trying to accomplish for a decade, and added he feels unfairly treated.
“It is just the inconsistency. I look around and there are other people subdividing their lots and hooking into water utility, but I still have to stay stagnant. All I want is to be treated like everybody else,” he said. “Barry Benson’s development came in 2008 and I was there in 2005, but Benson’s building places in his development and has been for years. I have been stalemated by the municipality.”
Unfair treatment, Vernon says, is cropping up not just in the water system hookup, but also in the municipality’s restriction on docks, which Canal Flats has had in place for more than six years and which he says is being selectively enforced on him, but not others.
“If Canal Flats is a recreational area, which it advertises itself as, then why is it that I can’t put a dock out on my lot. I look to the left of me, that is what I see. I look to the right, that is what I see. I just wanted to be treated as an equal,” he said, adding he will be going to council and asking why its hasn’t implemented the restrictions to docks for anybody else in years. “I am in the process of dealing with Brian Woodward and council so I can be treated like the rest of my neighbours.”
Vernon also said he’s particularly surprised at how difficult his development has been, given the local employment it would generate.
“My development would create jobs for building to work on the cottages up there. Everybody whines that they need a job. I hear it all the time from framers, plumbers and electricians in the area. We would really like to hire these people. This has affected a lot more people than just me,” he said. “If there were cabins up there, there would be even more tax dollars coming into the village.”
Vernon added he’s mystified at the treatment he’s received since he has continually extended gestures of goodwill to the village, such as donating the log cabin-style Canal Flats Discovery Centre building (which current serves as the Canal Flats municipal offices and a First Nations interpretive centre) to the municipality.