British Columbia

Canadian Transportation Agency to rule on dispute between West Vancouver and CN Rail

A legal dispute between West Vancouver and CN Rail over a popular seawall is heading to a tribunal.

CN Rail said to be looking for millions in rent for public use of the Centennial Seawalk

In its lawsuit, CN Rail alleges the District has constructed parking stalls, sidewalks, walking trails, a community gazebo and landscaping that encroaches on its railway corridor. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

A legal dispute between West Vancouver and CN Rail over a popular seawall is heading to a tribunal.

The Canadian Transportation Agency will be holding public hearings during an ongoing lawsuit between the two bodies concerning the public's right to access the Centennial Seawalk

"The fundamental question is whether or not the areas where the seawalk crosses into CN's right-of-way should be what the law calls approved crossings," said Scott Streiner, Canadian Transportation Agency CEO.

"We have many crossing cases, but the specific nature of this case is a little unusual."

CN Rail filed a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court on Feb. 17. The company terminated its lease with the municipality earlier this year, and is now seeking compensation of $3.7 million per year in rent for public use of the seawalk between 19th Street and 24th Street, which is on railroad land. 

The District of West Vancouver had been offering $12,500 a year, indexed for inflation. The seawall was built in the 1960s, but CN Rail leased the right-of-way from the B.C. government after they purchased B.C. Rail.

Streiner said the hearings would focus on "whether or not the city's application to be able to have crossings where the seawalk overlaps with CN's right-of-way along its line."

"If the answer is yes, then we would agree to the city's request to approve them," he said. 

"If the answer is no, then that's a different result. We'll make that decision once we have had an opportunity to hear all of the evidence, and all of the arguments." 

One of the many signs the District of West Vancouver has put up along the Centennial Seawalk, advising people of the dispute between the municipality and CN Rail. (CBC)

Minimal maintenance 

At the moment neither side is revealing much about the case, but in a written statement, the District of West Vancouver acknowledged they were doing less work on the seawalk because of the dispute. 

"While the District opposes CN's legal action, the District has been advised to reduce maintenance activities on the Centennial Seawalk to the level required for public health and safety," it wrote.

"The District apologizes for any inconvenience caused to the public."

For their part, CN Rail said they wouldn't be taking steps to bar people from using the seawalk while the legal process plays out.

"CN has asked the courts to confirm CN's right to proper compensation for the use of the property by the District of West Vancouver," it said in a statement. 

"We have always sought to conclude this issue through negotiation and we continue to believe a negotiated resolution is preferable to a litigated one."

The hearings will take place in Vancouver on Oct. 25 and 26. ​

With files from Tanya Fletcher