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Danny Williams, City of St. John’s headed to court over Galway

Danny Williams, who heads the company leading the Galway development, is going to court over treatment by the City of St. John’s.
Danny Williams, who heads the company leading the Galway development, is going to court over treatment by the City of St. John’s. - The Telegram

Application made for declarations the city has not acted appropriately

What may have appeared as an isolated tiff over a roundabout was part of a larger problem with the City of St. John’s, according to Danny Williams and a company he leads at the heart of the Galway development.

In documents filed with the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador, the company (10718 NFLD Inc.) offers a list of ways it claims to have been mistreated by the City of St. John’s, from the city demanding “over-building” of supporting infrastructure within the development area, to unreasonable amounts required for securities, to the developers being forced to cover the cost of damage caused by city snowplows.

More recently, there has been refusal of building permits.

The roundabout publicly debated in late May of this year makes the list, with the developer objecting to having to cover the cost of the road upgrade on the border of the City of Mount Pearl. And there is further objection to the refusal of a building permit, pending that roundabout’s completion.

As The Telegram reported in September, a construction permit was being refused for a new Costco building in Galway’s commercial district until the roundabout is finished, given the city said it would not be able to permit occupancy of that building anyway without the roundabout completed.

At that time, there was talk of potential legal action.

On Nov. 9, court filings were made on behalf of Williams and his company, with the company having sole responsibility for the commercial side of the Galway development, including the Shoppes at Galway and the Glencrest Business Centre.

The residential component of the 2,400-acre development, Galway Living, is referred to in the filings, but the partnership behind that development is not part of the legal action.

Beyond the list of development complaints, the 16-page application filed on behalf of Williams’ 10718 NFLD Inc. claims the city council has also failed to obtain signed development agreements for Galway, suggests the city council inappropriately shuffled permitting decisions to its staff, and suggests the City of St. John’s has tried to force future disputes away from the courts, through an arbitration clause in a still-draft agreement.

In his own affidavit, Williams makes a case the City of St. John’s is being unfair by requiring more from the developers of Galway than any other developer.

Among other things, he states his company has been presented with 16 different development agreements in just the first phase of Galway’s construction, including one agreement required for a single store. In comparison, he said, there are multiple, multimillion-dollar real estate developments in the city where development agreements were never in place, or at least the city could not provide them when they were requested under access to information laws.

Williams claims to have been refused information by the municipal government at various points along the way, including when the city manager indicated certain information would not be released because it could help him in future legal action against the city.

The City of St. John’s took a hard line with the Galway development in October, according to Williams, with the city refusing to issue further permits until Galway’s development agreements were signed.

The court has not been asked to order financial compensation, but 10718 NFLD Inc. has asked, with the supporting affidavit from Williams, for declarations. Namely, it wants the court to say that the city over-reached when it allegedly refused to issue a permit without agreement that future disputes would stay out of court; that it is inappropriate for the city to try to deny access to the courts; plus a declaration the council must make decisions on the development, as opposed to city staff.

The filing for 10718 NFLD Inc. was made by former cabinet minister Jerome Kennedy, now a lawyer with Roebothan McKay and Marshall. He also swore to Williams’ supporting affidavit.

Claims stated in the application against the city have not been proven. The case is scheduled to be called on Tuesday, Nov. 28.

In a statement issued Friday on the legal action, St. John’s Mayor Danny Breen said the entire Galway development is important for the city and the region.
“City council is committed to ensuring proper municipal regulations of the project and will continue to act in the best interests of our citizens,” Breen stated, adding the case has been put in the hands of an outside lawyer and will not be discussed in detail while it is in the courts.

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