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Vancouver's Broadway subway construction racks up lawsuits

Contractor Basalite Concrete Products is latest to sue for unpaid bill
Broadway subway construction has disrupted business for merchants and spawned legal battles between contractors

Construction on Vancouver’s Broadway subway has generated at least four lawsuits related to contractors allegedly failing to get paid, thanks to a new action filed May 24.

Another legal dispute comes from a merchant upset with how noise and construction disruptions have hurt his business. Many merchants have discussed launching a class-action lawsuit to get compensation because they paid more to lease properties than the leases were worth, but they have so far been deterred by what would likely be many years if not more than a decade in court.

The latest legal skirmish related to the subway comes from contractor Basalite Concrete Products – Vancouver, ULC, which alleges that it is out $27,031.95 plus interest after providing above- and below-ground construction services to help build the $2.8 billion extension of the SkyTrain system’s Millennium Line to Arbutus Street, from the VCC Clark station.  

Basalite is suing Tirex Deep Construction Ltd., formerly known as Tarrier Deep Construction Ltd., as well as the Broadway Subway Project Corp., the Broadway Subway Constructors General Partnership and the City of Vancouver.

This is not the first lawsuit against Tirex, which has not yet filed a response.

Paco Ventures LLC sued Tirex for $182,555 in September, while Mincon Canada – Western Service Canada Inc. sued Tirex for $317,285 in OctoberPinnacle Drilling Products LP then piled on in March with a $262,061 lawsuit against Tirex.

Each time the City of Vancouver was also listed as a defendant. In other suits defendants also included either Broadway Subway Constructors, or the Broadway Subway Project Corp.

The city emailed BIV today to say that it does not comment on matters before the courts.

Basalite alleges that contractors agreed to pay it for work at its usual rates by the 30th day of the month following the month when the “purchase” was made.

That meant that the money was owed as of April 30, 2022, Basalite said in its notice of civil claim.

Basalite also seeks a declaration that it is entitled to a builders lien, and that the city, as the “owner” was required to retain a holdback of funds to ensure that Basalite could be paid, after it filed a claim for a builders lien in the New Westminster Land Title Office in June 2022.

The controversial project has spawned not only contractor squabbles but also upset merchants.

Greens Organic and Natural Food Market Inc. in September sued the BC Transportation Financing Authority, the Transportation Investment Corp. and Her Majesty the Queen in right of B.C. as represented by the minister responsible for the Transportation Act and Broadway Subway Project Corp.

Greens’ owner Sentheepan Senthivel’s notice of civil claim called West Broadway subway construction a “nuisance.”

He said that his sales were $7.7 million in 2020, and that they dropped to $6.8 million in 2021, when construction began. In 2022, his sales fell further – to $5.6 million.

Senthivel told BIV today that "sales are down - worse than last year."

He has burned through more than $800,000 in cash to sustain his business, which remains open, he said.

He said he has been in touch with Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim's office, which has told him that it has been in contact with B.C.'s Ministry of Finance to advocate for compensation for merchants affected by the construction. 

Other lobbying efforts include getting the subway builders to allow for some street parking to resume. 

Senthivel said that he has been in talks with his landlord to try to defer some rent payments.

His described his lawsuit as “futile” because the government corporation building the line has deep pockets and the ability to wait out what could be a long battle. The same futility could meet the merchants if they aim to launch a class action lawsuit, he said. 

There were 80 Cambie Street property owners and merchants who launched a class action lawsuit in 2009, alleging that their property values were diminished during Canada Line construction.

The merchants won in court only to watch defendants appeal the judgment.

They have not yet received so much as a penny in compensation, class-action participant and former Festival Cinemas owner Leonard Schein told BIV this afternoon. 

Schein and other Cambie merchants continue to argue in court that the line’s operators should compensate them because the businesses paid more to lease properties than the leases were worth.

He said that there has been some agreement from TransLink and other defendants that the merchants and property owners are owed some money for a one-year period.

TransLink in 2018 sent BIV a statement saying that it was appealing the BC Supreme Court judgment that awarded damages to Cambie merchant class members, because TransLink disagreed with how land values were being calculated.

It wanted an official assessment from a real-estate appraiser instead of a property value that was estimated using a revenue-loss formula.

Schein is urging the city to provide property-tax discounts for impacted Broadway merchants, and the province to provide compensation to those merchants based on whatever formula is eventually determined in court to compensate Cambie merchants.

No court date has been set to hear TransLink’s appeal of the Cambie merchants’ class-action lawsuit, Schein confirmed today. •

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