Court rules in favour of City of New Westminster in Windsor Hotel lawsuit

A lawsuit claiming negligence by the City of New Westminster in its handling of a rezoning application has been dismissed.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Miriam Gropper has ruled the city did not engage in negligent representation or negligence in its dealings with Nirmal Walia, president of P.S.D. Enterprises, who was seeking to open a liquor store on 12th Street.

Walia, at the urging of the city, sold the Windsor Hotel on Columbia Street for $2 million to Ballenas Project Management in 2006 to make way for the Interurban condominium tower. The pub and liquor store licences were not part of the sale.

In his suit, Walia alleged Tim Whitehead, who was the city’s director of developmental services at the time, guaranteed the city would help to find him a new location.

After looking at two other spots on 12th Street, Walia sought a rezoning for 804 12th Street to go along with the approval he received from liquor authorities. Following a public hearing and third reading for the rezoning, Walia spoke to council about concerns raised at the hearing. However, any presentation to council about a rezoning is not allowed between third reading and adoption.

Council then rescinded third reading and ordered another public hearing in January 2007, after which Walia’s rezoning application was unanimously rejected by council. The licences have also expired.

Gropper ruled Whitehead did not make the guarantee representation, and that the city was not negligent in its advice to Walia, or in failing to stop him from discussing the rezoning before council at an inappropriate time.

“P.S.D. has not satisfied me that the City engaged in negligent representation or negligence in its dealings with Mr. Walia or P.S.D. It is unnecessary to consider P.S.D.’s claim for damages,” Gropper stated in her Reasons for Judgment.

She also ruled the city is entitled to have its court costs paid by Walia. The suit took up nine days in June and July of last year and another three in October before Gropper came down with her ruling April 8.

According to city spokesperson Blair Fryer, the city is insured in cases like this through the Municipal Insurance Authority, and the MIA is responsible for seeking to recover costs.

When contacted on Monday, Walia would not offer any comment on the ruling. He said he had no idea if he would appeal.

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