Judge to rule Friday on West Van stormwater protest injunction

West Vancouverites protesting the Five Creeks stormwater project will have to wait until Friday to learn whether they could face contempt of court proceedings if they hold up construction.

The District of West Vancouver and British Pacific Properties are planning to build a five-foot-diameter stormwater pipe from the Upper Levels highway to the foot of 31st Street to handle excess water flows as storms become more severe. But residents caught off guard by the project have been pushing back, arguing they should have been consulted, that it would bring ecological harm, and that it would disrupt their neighbourhoods solely for the gain of British Pacific Properties.

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Several residents protested at the foot of 31st on May 23, refusing to move for arborists coming to remove a tall red cedar on the boulevard.

The District of West Vancouver’s lawyer was in B.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday asking a judge for an injunction that would bar Lucinda Jones, Susan Bibbings, Brian Finnie and Joan Finnie as well as a John Doe and Jane Doe from preventing construction.

The district's lawyer, Guy Patterson, argued that while the protesters may have been well meaning, there is little question the Community Charter gives the municipality the right to carry out the work.

“We say (the district) has that right by virtue of its statutory authority to provide services as well as the fact that the proposed location of the infrastructure is to be installed almost entirely within district highways, which the district owns,” Patterson told the court. “That facts aren’t disputed about what’s going on here. The statutory basis for the injunction, in my view, is clear and everything else, in my view, in the materials is for concerned citizens to discuss with their elected officials and try to convince them that the project is a bad idea.”

Because of a late start, only one of the people named in the court petition had time to argue their case Tuesday afternoon.

In her submissions, Jones asserted the tree contractor who showed up to cut down the cedar was not one approved by the District of West Vancouver. She also noted that permits required from the province related to work around the streams were still “pending.” Much of her argument, though, targeted the district for approving the project with British Pacific Properties without consulting residents.

“It’s really important for the citizenry to be treated with respect as an intelligent base of people and be invited to participate in these conversations. Most of the meetings that happened between the municipality and BPP – actually all of them – and often the information is not privy to us,” she said. “Our position is that there needs to be more credence paid to more modern hydrological concepts, which are actually quite old fashioned. You deal with the water where it falls.”

Justice Nathan Smith warned, however, his ruling would have to be based on the points of law being argued, not whether the project should go ahead.

“It’s simply a decision by council in a political sense that you disagree with. It’s not an issue for me to involve the court in,” he said.

The matter has now been adjourned until Friday when Jones will finish her arguments and Susan Bibbings will speak in her own defence. The others named in the original petition did not submit response documents by the deadline required to speak in court. The judge said he would allow them to submit documents up until noon on Wednesday but that he was unlikely to hear further oral arguments that repeated what had already been said.

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