A court decision that has awarded compensation to business owners for damage caused by Canada Line construction could cost TransLink millions, and the B.C. government should take that into account as they start building two new transit lines in the region, says a lawyer involved in the case.
But TransLink said in a statement that despite the ruling, there are no plans to provide compensation for any business when the regional transit authority builds the new rapid transit line in Surrey.
“Major projects do not offer up-front compensation for inconvenience during construction,” the statement said. “We have taken lessons learned during Canada Line construction and will be selecting a contractor committed to working closely with residents and business owners to actively consult and communicate throughout the construction process.”
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The province, which will be overseeing the Broadway subway project set to start construction by fall 2019, did not respond to The Globe and Mail by deadline.
In his ruling, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Christopher Grauer awarded more than $200,000 in total to three business owners along Cambie Street who argued for compensation after losing business during construction of the Canada Line between downtown and Vancouver's airport from 2007 and when the line opened in 2009.
The three were test cases for a larger group of more than 100 businesses. Justice Grauer said the rest of the owners should be paid out according to the principles he set out.
The judge said the cut-and-cover construction, which was used after TransLink and the province chose a construction bid proposing that option in order to reduce costs, caused harm to businesses for too long a period.
“It was not, however, the degree of interference at any given moment that was intolerable; rather, I find, it was the length of time over which access was restricted that made the interference intolerable to the businesses in question,” he wrote.
The Festival Cinemas on Cambie Street saw its revenue drop by almost half during the three years of construction, and then rise again immediately to more than $1-million a year after the line was finished.
Leonard Schein, then running the Park Theatre on Cambie, said he was pleased with the court decision and hoped it would stand.
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“We just hope that TransLink does not appeal this decision and pays the merchants what the courts have decided that they should.”
Paul Bennett, who represented the businesses, said the ruling will have wide implications. “It will have implications for Broadway and Surrey,” Mr. Bennett said. “This type of impact is inevitable [with transit projects]. The simplest thing is compensation to businesses, but there’s been a reluctance to do that here because it would be a precedent.”
Officials for the Transportation Ministry were not able to respond by deadline.
Mr. Bennett estimated that the total package for compensation will be considerably more than $1-million for all the owners, if TransLink, the regional transportation authority, doesn’t appeal the decision and get it reversed.
Business owners on or near the planned new lines – the extension of the Broadway subway from Clark to Arbutus and light-rail lines in Surrey along King George Boulevard and 104th Avenue – are already nervous about what might happen.
“The businesses are worried,” said Neil Wyles, executive director of the Main Street Business Improvement Association. He said people have been told the tunnel will be 100-per-cent bored and so will cause less disruption than the Canada Line did, but no one knows that for sure.