The owner of the Gateway Inn is suing the City of Revelstoke over potential loss of business he says will result from construction of the new roundabout.
William Zhao filed a statement of claim in court saying the city didn’t obtain his consent before allowing the access to his hotel to be closed, that the city hasn’t offered any compensation for the future loss of access, and that no other suitable access is being provided.
The Gateway Inn sits at the intersection of Victoria Road and Wright Street, where the city is building a new roundabout as part of a two-phase project to relieve congestion at the Trans-Canada Highway intersection. The motel’s name comes from the wood-frame entrance and sign that greets drivers as they come through the railway underpass, down Victoria Road. Guests staying at the motel can turn right into the property from Victoria Road.
“This is a legal entrance,” Zhao told me “They closed my front door.”
The roundabout means Zhao will lose access to his motel from Victoria Road. Instead, guests will have to go a circuitous route through the Farwell neighbourhood, or up Victoria Road, then back down First Street.
Photo: William Zhao is the owner of the Gateway Inn. ~ Revelstoke Review file photo
In his claim, he says the motel has a market value of $4 million but it would only be worth a fraction of that if the access off Victoria Road is closed.
“I bought it because of the location. Now the value is lost,” Zhao said.
He is seeking an injunction preventing the city from closing access to his property or, if that doesn’t happen, compensation for “injurious affection to its property.”
The lawsuit cites section’s 33 and 41 of the Community Charter. Section 33 says a municipality must provide compensation if expropriates or negatively affects a property. Section 41 says a municipality must either seek permission or provide compensation if changes to a highway deprive “completely deprive” access to a property.
, council awarded the construction contract to Speers Construction in a closed door meeting on July 26, despite the fact Speers bid $272,000 more than Jake & Jay Construction.
Construction on the roundabout began Monday morning. The start was announced by the City of Revelstoke on Friday, Aug. 12 at 4 p.m.
The announcement prompted letters to the city from the owners of the Monashee Lodge, Days Inn and Gateway Inn, who were angry about the lack of notice and the fact access to their properties will be affected at the end of the busy summer tourist season.
“I was served notice they’re shutting down this intersection at 10 to 4 p.m. on Friday,” said Dean Lemon, the owner of the Monashee Lodge. “When you serve formal notice, there should be three months.”
After talking to the hotel owners, I spoke to Mike Thomas, the city’s director of engineering, and Dawn Low, the city’s director of corporate administration on Monday morning,
Thomas said the city had an extensive consultation process and noted the significant media coverage the roundabout project received. He said the affected businesses were invited to provide their input in March, but despite all that, the first time they heard from Zhao was last week.
“In terms of the statement of facts and the relief sought, we can’t talk about this. This is now with our lawyers,” said Thomas.
He said the construction contract was only finalized with Speers last week and construction had to start now in order to finish it before winter. “If we waited until the spring, it would mean a whole other summer with no solution for the intersection.”
Thomas said he’d never heard of any statutory requirements to notify neighbouring property owners before starting construction. “We’re not doing any work on their property and we’re not expropriating any land,” he said.
Photo: An image of the future roundabout. ~ By McElhanney Consulting
Michael Fallaise, the project manager, said Speers Construction will be keeping two lanes open on Victoria Road for the majority of the construction period, though on occasion it will go down to single-lane alternative. Traffic will be routed around the north side of the intersection, near the CP Rail tracks, during construction.
Access to the Nomad and Zala’s parking lot will remain open, but access to Wright Street will be closed, which is a sticky point for the hotel owners.
“Did (the city) not think about this? Did (the city) not think about how (it) would affect the businesses?” said Lemon. “For them to do this to us is just appalling to me. It’s prime time, it’s busy. We can’t afford this.”
Fallaise said a detour will be set up to direct traffic to the Farwell neighbourhood along Victoria Road, Charles Street and Douglas Street. People will also be able to go through the Zala’s parking lot to get to Wright Street.
While access to Wright Street will re-open once construction is done, access to the Gateway Inn from Victoria will be closed permanently.
Dawn Low said the city would work with the affected businesses to address their concerns during construction.
“We’re working very hard to keep the traffic flowing and to mitigate any effects on businesses in the area,” she said. “We will look at signage for detour routes and try to minimize the amount of closures, particularly on Wright Street.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article said Speers bid less than Jake & Jay for the construction contract. They in fact bid more than them.