Local business owners seek compensation against region

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Photo by Alex Trkulja

Business owners in the Waterloo Region who have been impacted by Light Rail Transit construction have taken the first step towards seeking compensation through legal action against the Waterloo Region.

Since LRT construction began, the Region has received dozens of letters from businesses indicating that they reserve the right to seek legal action as a result of the losses they faced as a result of construction.

“We appreciate that there have been some significant challenges during construction. On the other hand, the municipality does not have a pot of money that is available for this,” said Councilor Tom Galloway, who chairs the regional committee overseeing the LRT project.

Provincial law, under the Expropriations Act, allows businesses to be reimbursed for any losses. The act states that claims can be filed against the government that is undertaking the project, in this case, it is the Regional government. If a settlement is not agreed upon between the parties involved, the Ontario Municipal Board will determine whether the claim is valid.

“It’s a fairly rigorous process that they have to go through in order to convince the municipal board that they should be compensated, but of course it is their legal right to go that avenue if they wish,” Galloway said.

If businesses are able to prove that they are entitled to be made whole for any losses, then the government would then likely have to cover both legal and expert costs, as well as any claimed losses.

“I have a significant number of clients who have been affected by the LRT,” said Shane Rayman, a Toronto-based lawyer who is representing a number of  businesses who were allegedly impacted. Rayman’s clients have various claims, including business loss claims as well as claims for the value of their land of disturbance caused by the Region’s acquisition.

“Some of them have been impacted very severely; some have had to go out of business and then others have endured some degree of loss,” Rayman claimed.

“It really depends where they are and what kind of business they are.”

Rayman also explained that the claims are not only being sought out by business owners, however, land owners in general are seeking compensation.

“The issue includes the value of the land that’s been expropriated, damage to the remaining land as a result of the expropriation and disturbance damages, which is any other loss arising as a natural and reasonable consequence of the expropriation, and that includes business losses,” Rayman said.

Allegedly, one of the larger companies pursuing claims is Loblaws on behalf of the Valu-Mart located in uptown Waterloo.

The grocery store, which is also along the ION route, has apparently suffered a large impact due to construction. When asked about the legal action being taken by Loblaws corporation, Bob Stoikos, manager at Valu-Mart, had no comments at the time.

Galloway also explained that some of the payment, if businesses are to continue forward with their claims, could potentially fall onto GrandLinq, the contractors hired by the Region for ION construction.

“The agreement we had with GrandLinq does require them to identity to the Region, for these kinds of claims, where it can be proven that they didn’t do things properly, where their construction methods were improper, the timing was off, etc.,” Galloway said.

Galloway also said that the Region does not anticipate a large amount of money will be claimed by businesses.

“At this point, the Region, in its history, has never paid a claim for all the road construction we’ve done over the years. That’s why we don’t have a budget for it,” Galloway said.

Businesses will have to wait until after the construction is complete to go forward if they wish to do so. Negotiating a claim could take anywhere from six months to two years, as said by Rayman. Rayman, however, believes that if businesses can prove their losses, they may be entitled for compensation as per the Expropriations Act.

“I believe that if an owner is entitled to be made whole, and they’ve suffered a loss and they can show that, they’re going to be successful,” Rayman said.

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