By Mike Anderson
Tim Danbrook, the owner of Ownerbuild Ltd., is suing Ward 3 Councillor Dave Neeson in small claims court for $35,000 in damages.
The damages, according to Danbrook’s statement of claim, resulted from his clients cancelling contracts after the Town refused to issue them building permits to build boathouses, docks and other structures on their shoreline along Lake Drive.
The Town, which claims ownership of the shoreline as part of its municipal road allowance, is not issuing building permits unless indirect property owners can prove they own the land up to the water’s edge.
It is also refusing to comment on Ministry of Natural Resources permit applications filed by indirect property owners, rendering them null and void.
These actions, according to Danbrook, have been taken without the passage of an interim control bylaw, which senior Town staff have said is required to refuse building permits.
According to his statement of claim, filed on May 9, Danbrook claims Councillor Neeson, since his election in 2014, has acted to “block” development on waterfront properties along Lake Drive, which are “legally allowed for development under current local, regional and provincial legislation and authority.”
“Councillor Neeson, through his actions and willful disregard for the truth through the systematic abuse of authority, caused the refusal of permits for more than 400 property owners along a five-mile stretch of properties, simply because he didn’t think there should be development allowed on those properties,” the claim states.
Danbrook also claims that Neeson, acting in concert with Mayor Margaret Quirk, has deprived the indirect property owners of “any process that would allow for an appeal or input” and have instructed staff to refuse permits even though it would be illegal to do so.
The claim states that Neeson’s actions constitute a “restraint of trade,” which it defines as “practices designed to…obstruct the course of trade and commerce.”
Danbrook also intends to file a claim against Mayor Quirk, “relating to a separate number of contracts that were cancelled or denied as a result of their restraint of trade practices.”
“The local construction trades including myself have suffered immeasurably as a result of the Town’s illegal restraint of trade practices. Millions have been lost and the amounts that I am willing to accept in this claim and in the separate claim against Mayor Quirk represent only a fraction of my losses,” the claim states.
Although a municipal election is just a few months away, Danbrook denies his suit is politically motivated.
“It’s not politically motivated; it’s a valid claim for improper actions,” he said.
“They deny permits that legally should be issued. They deny people’s rights because they want to manage an ownership dispute.”
“They are avoiding due process. And Neeson should have been challenging it on behalf of his constituents and did not.”
The Post asked Neeson to comment on Danbrook’s suit, but he declined after discussing the matter with his lawyer.
However, in his statement of defence, Neeson denies all of the allegations against him and calls the small claims suit premature and entirely without merit.
He also denies the claim of damages and requests that the suit be dismissed with his legal costs, which are being covered by the Town, payable by Danbrook.
“To date, Georgina has made no decision with respect to how it will address the ownership of lands abutting Lake Simcoe. That process is ongoing,” the statement reads.
“Accordingly, there is no alleged conduct on the part of Councillor Neeson from which any alleged damage could have been sustained by the plaintiff.”
The statement of defence also states that Danbrook’s legal actions, which include nine previous small claims suits and an application for a judicial review, have stalled the Town’s plan to resolve the shoreline issue.
Still, according to a Town spokesperson, Danbrook’s current small claims suit will not prevent the Town from moving forward with its Lake Drive Jurisdiction Action Plan, which would see the Town divest its ownership of the shoreline lands, selling them to the indirect property owners.
A staff report regarding the price, including land costs and cost recovery charges associated with the divestiture, is scheduled for June 22.
A second staff report outlining the schedule to implement the steps outlined in the Action Plan is scheduled for no later than August 10.
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