Falcon Ridge homeowners want millions in penalties
Copper Ridge condominium owners faced off against their “misleading” and “intimidating” developer in a courtroom power struggle this week,
Photo by Vince Fedoroff
COMPENSATION WANTED – Falcon Ridge condo owners are seeking million of dollars in penalties from a developer theyrʼ e hoping to s top from building a partially completed apartment block in their community.
Copper Ridge condominium owners faced off against their “misleading” and “intimidating” developer in a courtroom power struggle this week, seeking millions of dollars in penalties from a company whose construction of an apartment complex they say was unwarranted and will have detrimental effects.
Residents of the Falcon Ridge area argued that their property values will drop, traffic will rise and their idyllic suburban skyline will be tainted if the four-storey structure goes through as planned.
They say construction of the 18-unit building, which Yukon Supreme Court Judge Ron Veale ordered to a halt last January after it popped up with little warning the previous summer, was never mandated by the condo owners in the first place, a legal requirement.
The owners are also seeking penalties of about $2.6 million in outstanding fees, penalties and accrued interest.
“We have been intentionally confused, deceived and this whole process has been utterly confusing to us as owners, but also as a board,” said Grant Zazula, who owns one of the 75 detached houses that make up the bulk of the neighbourhood.
“They’re only interested in making money. It’s so absolutely clear to me that they’re not considering what’s best for us as condo owners and as families,” he said of the numbered company, 37724 Yukon Inc., run by Brian Little.
Zazula said the addition of 18 more families would decrease his home value, create traffic and parking problems and make the area less safe for children.
He also said the apartment building, with three of its four storeys now complete, is an “eyesore.” The structure is now “half-decrepit,” he added, having sat exposed to the elements all winter.
“I want this place torn down.”
Fabian Glyka was the first buyer in a new section of the subdivision last year, selecting his house based on its location in the neighbourhood. Now, a vacant apartment block overshadows his home.
“He never told me I would have an apartment building in front of my house,” Glyka said, referring to Little. “Had I known, I would have gone somewhere else.”
Glyka and Zazula also complained about the as yet unpaved roads and grassless lawns and the absence of a retaining wall.
The condo corporation’s lawyer, James Tucker, said the development company had been “holding them hostage” with promises to complete these features once the homeowners allowed the apartment building to go through.
Tucker also pointed out the developer maintained controlling interest on the condo board, giving Little voting power and leading to his near-total exemption from condo fee payments.
The Falcon Ridge homeowners said 37724 should pay its share of fees retroactively and in proportion to the amount of control it retained — about 60 per cent from 2005 to December 2012. That adds up to about $1.1 million, plus another $1.5 million in penalties and accrued interest, the condo owners claimed.
Lawyers for 37724, however, argued Little’s company owed only $41,000. They said no penalties and fees should apply, and that it did not contribute to the monthly condo fees because the properties it owned were not yet occupied.
This was based on a “common understanding” between Little and the homeowners, “a shared assumption that 37724 would not pay fees,” and therefore cannot be penalized, one of the lawyers said.
They told Judge Veale in Yukon Supreme Court today that this was only “fair and equitable.”
“I’ll be the judge of that,” Veale said.
The Falcon Ridge homeowners, who comprise Whitehorse Condominium Corporation No. 95, also applied to amend their constituting documents to clarify the rules of the subdivision.
They say the corporation’s original 2005 declaration and bylaws, drafted by the developer, allow only detached houses in their cookie-cutter neighbourhood, with the possible addition of duplexes and rowhouses. Any exceptions — like an apartment building — must be consented to in writing by each homeowner.
“The declaration went further than not addressing (the apartment building); it explicitly restricted the construction of non-single family private homes and acted as a bar to the very construction that (Little) undertook,” Tucker said in court Thursday.
He said 37724 was “piggybacking” on the condo corporation’s amendment application and requesting the apartment building stay put by nullifying the injunction against further construction, handed down by Veale last January. Tucker insisted the apartment building lot can only be used for a single home, supposedly in accordance with the original declaration and plan.
“That’s one awfully big house,” Veale said.
But he also implied the developer’s map of the initial subdivision plan was deceptive: “There was no suggestion of three-storey-or-more buildings.”
“It was always understood there would be additional density in that corner,” replied the lawyer for Little.
“That strikes me as a very different concept of apartments,” Veale said, referring to duplexes and rowhouses.
The lawyers of 37724 reminded Veale he did not have to swing completely one way or the other in his decision: “This isn’t a baseball arbitration where you have to pick.”
“Thank you, I prefer hockey analogies,” Veale said.
Homeowner Brenda Berezan was not contented either. She said she was told there would be condo duplexes beside her house.
“I was satisfied with that answer at the time, yet four months later (July 2012), apartments were going up right beside me and my son,” she said.
She also objected to how Little came by her home and others to inform them of the apartment building, “with a lawyer by his side, which I thought was an intimidating and unprofessional way to go about things.”
Rick Karp, another condo owner and also president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, told the court he “was led to believe there would be an apartment there.”
He was fine with the structure and also said, speaking from experience, that it was understandable that the paving and landscaping are not yet complete, since they are usually the finishing touches in a development.
It’s not known when a decision is forthcoming.