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Urban development? Only if no one minds.

May 28, 2009

Update: News today that this decision in 2009 to compensate a business for disruption has been overturned. This is difficult for the business owner involved who might have to give back the award, hopefully she can find some way to get an exemption or have it reduced.  However, in principle I think it’s a great decision.  If governments can’t build infrastructure unless everyone everywhere is completely happy with it, you’ll get a city that doesn’t work and can’t grow….like Vancouver, which has to fight tooth and nail to get any improvement in urban infrastructure that would help people move around faster.

Original Post:

A Cambie street shop owner has been awarded $600,000 compensation for disruptions caused by building the Canada Line rapid transit line in Vancouver.  Well thank you Mr. Justice Ian Pitfield for making a decision that will make it next to impossible to move forward with new transit developments in Vancouver.

Susan Heyes owned a business on Cambie street which was hurt so badly by the construction of the new subway line that she went out of business….oh wait, no, she moved her business to Main Street. So let me get this straight.  A fast growing city, soon to be hosting a global event with the 2010 Winter Olympics decides it needs a rapid transit line going North-South and connecting the airport to downtown.  To save the city and province money they choose to simply dig a trench and bury the subway rather than burrow under Cambie as they’d originally planned.  They do this because the public was outraged about the costs of the new line (even though the province and feds picked up most of it) and tunneling is  a lot slower and more expensive than digging.

The result was that businesses in front of the digging lost some business.  That is too bad, I’m sorry,  even though in Ms. Heyes case it didn’t even put her out of business, she had the resources to move.  But even if she did go bankrupt, there is a big picture here that the judge is missing by awarding $600,000 in compensation.  Now UBC will never get a transit line.  The Broadway business association is already girding for a fight to stop Trankslink building a new subway/skytrain to connect UBC to the network.  This line would reduce pollution, traffic congestion and make life easier for tens of thousands of commuters every day who currently wait for several 99 express buses to pass them before they cram in like sardines for the 30 minute ride.

What kind of city are you going to have if every development that benefits society in the long run has to be unanimously accepted by all affected parties before it even begins.  A class action lawsuit involving hundreds of businesses on Cambie street for compensation is now looking more likely to succeed after this precedent.  That would shut down transit development entirely in Vancouver.  I strongly encourage Translink or the Crown to appeal this case to  higher level.

I have a question for the businesses on Cambie suing, not for Ms. Heyes since she’s moved to Main now, will you give your compensation money back to Translink after your business goes through the roof due to the increased patronage that comes from running a business on a transit line? Cambie is set to become the new main strip of South Vancouver, suplanting Granville and Mainstreet because of the Canada Line.  The enormous developments at the base of the Cambie bridge are evidence of that.  Canadian Tire, Save-On, WholeFoods and Home Depot know which way the winds are blowing.  If your little maternity clothes store can’t weather that development, then I’m sorry, but don’t ruin this city for the rest of us just to save your shop.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. corrie permalink
    May 30, 2009 8:43 pm

    I’ll answer your question about businesses giving back money when their business goes through the roof… here it is..
    I guess you are forgetting the ones who have already gone bankrupt, like myself. I haven’t had a credit card in in the last few years and lost my savings, rrsp’s and dignity in the process. I was entitled to my business, and the UBC line will go through as Translink and those involved have qualified enough lawyers to come up with a plan of compensation or better mitigation before that project happens. You have to realize that no one was against the line being constructed and it is naive of you to assume so. The problem lies in the lies. Plain and simple. They refused to truly mitigate the impacts and if you protested or disagreed with them, you were told to go to hell and stick it out. There was no opportunity to protect business and move voluntarily as leases were long and binding and the “3 months” construction period, followed by a amazing street and plenty of new customers packaging sold by RAVCO in the beginning never materialized.

    You obviously love the big box stores, and big business… but there are more small businesses than big ones and they employ far more people. So saving small business, is the past, present and future to many more than your Best Buy and Walmart. Unless YOU work there, of course.

  2. May 31, 2009 5:26 am

    Corrie, I don’t know how to answer your concerns, perhaps I do oversimplify it. I do not work in any big box stores or have any relation to retail or even small business. I don’t know what the solution is to this kind of problem, if they lied, they shouldn’t have. And if that lieing does justify these lawsuits then translink and them are as responsible for the ramifications. But from an outsiders perspective on these issues, I think the result is a bad precedent. I want more transit, not less, and I’m afraid that this will only make it harder to get more transit projects approved in the future.

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