City of Winnipeg wins legal skirmish in prelude to final decision over fire-paramedic station price tag

The City of Winnipeg has won a legal skirmish as part of a larger, decade-long battle over the price it must pay for the land beneath a South River Heights fire-paramedic station.

In November 2011, the city took possession of a parcel on Taylor Avenue that would become the site of a new version of its fire-paramedic Station No. 12.

The site was owned by Shindico Realty, a Winnipeg real-estate company, which had worked out a deal with the a former fire-paramedic chief to swap the Taylor Avenue parcel for city-owned properties on Grosvenor Avenue, Berry Street and Mulvey Avenue East.

City council never approved the three-for-one deal. The cancellation of that agreement led the city to expropriate the land in April 2014. Ever since, the two sides have disagreed over the compensation the city owes to Shindico for the land under Station No. 12.

A final decision is expected later this year, when the dispute comes before the Land Value Appraisal Commission, a provincial body that settles expropriation disputes.

In a prelude to that decision, the city has fought off a Shindico effort to prevent the city from employing the services of law firm Taylor McCaffrey at the land-value hearing.

Shindico sought an order from Manitoba’s Court of Queen’s Bench to disqualify Taylor McCaffrey from working for the city, because the firm also worked for Shindico-controlled companies in the past.

In a decision dated April 20, Justice Theodor Bock agreed the firm did work for Shindico companies but also said there was no evidence they had access to any confidential Shindico information that would assist the City of Winnipeg in its dispute over the Taylor Avenue land.

“I find myself at a loss to understand what special knowledge Taylor McCaffrey has of the Shindico Companies, and how such knowledge could be used to the disadvantage of [the Shindico-controlled numbered company] at the expropriation hearing,” Bock wrote in his decision.

Justin Zarnowski, general counsel for Shindico, said the law firm’s work for both Shindico and the city is a conflict of interest.

“We believed that should disqualify Taylor McCaffrey from acting for the city but ultimately the court decided against that, despite the conflict of interest,” Zarnowski said in a statement.

“We’re hoping this gets resolved by the end of the year although that will now depend on when we can get a date with the Land Value Appraisal Commission. We will continue to pursue the compensation owed to us by the city for the expropriation.”

City of Winnipeg communications manager Felicia Wiltshire said the city is also “looking forward” to the hearing.

Mayor Brian Bowman’s office declined to comment, citing the unresolved nature of the dispute, which is now set to span three mayoral administrations.

Former mayor Sam Katz was in office when the dispute began, it continued throughout both of Bowman’s terms and may not conclude until some time after Bowman’s successor is sworn in as Winnipeg’s next mayor in November.

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