Whistler fighting in court on all fronts 

Three new cases in B.C. Supreme Court in past month

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The Resort Municipality of Whistler is rearranging its budget to find the money to fight three new legal challenges, all dropped in the B.C. Supreme Court in the last month, the most damaging of which could be the petition initiated by the Squamish and Lil'wat First Nations.

The two Nations filed a petition against the province and the RMOW on May 8 over its newly adopted Official Community Plan.

"Personally, I am very disappointed," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden during her mayor's report at Tuesday's council meeting.

She was unable to speak in detail about the petition other than to say that Whistler would be filing a response to the petition in court.

Whistler has hired Young Anderson to take on the case.

A budget amendment will also be coming forward in the next few weeks to cover the legal costs, but it's too early to tell just how much it will cost taxpayers.

"This has the hallmark of a lengthy and complicated piece of legislation," said the mayor.

The petition also names Bill Bennett, minister of community, sport and cultural development, who signed the OCP approval on the eve of the writ being dropped for the provincial election (Bennett was re-elected last week).

In the petition, the nations ask for an order to quash or set aside the decision of the minister to approve the plan.

It states: "The Minister had a duty to consider amendments to the official Community Plan of the Resort Municipality of Whistler that would protect the economic and aboriginal title interests of the Lil'wat Nation and the Squamish Nation."

The OCP limits development in the RMOW to 61,750 bed units, the nations claim. Only 477 bed units remain unallocated.

The petition states: "The Squamish Nation and the Lil'wat Nation expect to acquire additional lands within the boundaries of the Resort Municipality of Whistler as accommodation for future infringements on Squamish and Lil'wat aboriginal rights and title. By precluding development on any such lands, the OCP Bylaw adversely affects Squamish and Lil'wat aboriginal rights and title.

"By effectively precluding any future development on lands to which the Squamish and Lil'wat Nation claim aboriginal title, the OCP Bylaw has the potential to adversely impact present and future Squamish and Lil'wat lands."

The RMOW has 21 days to file a response to the petition but could ask for an extension given the complex nature of the case and the sheer volume of documentation.

Homeowners challenge expropriation

Whistler homeowners Barry and Julie Combs filed a lawsuit in the B.C. Supreme Court at the end of April over the expropriation of a portion of their Alta Vista property for a Statutory Right of Way for a sanitary sewer.

"What remains outstanding... is determining the right of fair compensation," said lawyer Bruce Melville of the law firm Peterson Stark Scott, who specializes in expropriation and municipal litigation involving land use.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler paid the Combs $6,900 on July 18, 2012.

The market value estimated by the homeowners, however, is $62,000.

With $1,000 for "disturbance damages," the net claim is for $56,100.

"Pretty much everything is in dispute," added Melville, though he would not speak to the specifics of the case because of the outstanding litigation.

The property is located at 3045 Alpine Crescent.

In its response to the civil claim, filed May 14, Whistler stated the advance payment of $6,900 was based on an appraisal report, a copy of which was sent to the owners.

Whistler expropriated 111.2 square metres (1,200 square feet) of the Combs property.

Meadow Park rope swing accident under scrutiny

Meanwhile, Vancouver resident Carol Crichton filed a Notice of Civil Claim against the RMOW in the B.C. Supreme Court in early May.

The claim dates back to an accident on July 15, 2011 when Crichton was injured on the rope swing at Meadow Park Sports Centre.

Her feet hit the bottom of the pool and she claims injuries to both feet, ankles, hips, and her back.

She claims the RMOW was negligent and she is looking for compensation for her injuries which caused "pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, permanent physical disability, loss of earnings, past and prospective, loss of income earning capacity and loss of opportunity to earn income."

RMOW has not yet filed its response to Crichton's civil claim.



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