Parker lands developer's $30M lawsuit alleges City of Winnipeg, 4 bureaucrats acted in bad faith

Parker lands developer Andrew Marquess is suing the City of Winnipeg and four bureaucrats, including director of property planning and development John Kiernan and three of his employees.

Gem Equities' Andrew Marquess says he's owed money for expropriation of chunk Parker lands

Vote on fate of the controversial development now goes to city's executive policy committee. (Gem Equities)

Parker lands developer Andrew Marquess of Gem Equities is suing the City of Winnipeg and four bureaucrats, alleging an abuse of power. 

The developer is seeking at least $30 million in damages as compensation for lost revenue due to the delay of the planned project on the Parker lands, just west of Pembina Highway and south of the CN Railway line, in Winnipeg's Fort Garry neighbourhood. That number could go up as the suit moves through the courts.

"The conduct of the four individual defendants is specifically alleged to have been done in bad faith," said Kevin Toyne, a lawyer for Marquess. "They acted in bad faith to specifically injure the plaintiff." 

The city staff named in the lawsuit include property and planning director John Kiernan, chief planner Braden Smith, senior planner Michael Robinson, and zoning and permits administrator Martin Grady. 

Marquess wants to develop a 19-hectare (47-acre) chunk of the Parker neighbourhood into a mixed-use development called Fulton Grove, with apartments, townhouses and homes rising between the CNR Rivers railway and the second phase of the Southwest Transitway.

In August, city planners had advised council not to grant a hearing on the proposal because they argued it lacks detail, is unsuitable for the area and does not guarantee the protection of remaining forest on the Parker land.

The lawsuit alleges city bureaucrats unlawfully refused to accept the developer's zoning application and unlawfully denied them a hearing before the community committee. 

In September, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Candace Grammond ordered the city centre community committee to hold a public hearing on Nov. 13.

"People have the right to be heard in a reasonably expeditious fashion," said Marquess lawyer Dave Hill. "We want our day in front of the committee." 

Hill says the lawsuit will move forward regardless of the outcome of the public hearing. 

City calls accusations false

"The defendants will, in due course, address each of the many false accusations in the plaintiff's Statement of Claim," said City of Winnipeg chief corporate services officer Michael Jack in an emailed statement.

"Each of the defendant employees has, at all times, conducted themselves with the utmost integrity, competence and character, and have discharged their duties very effectively," Jack said.

"The defendants have gone to extraordinary lengths to attempt to collaborate and co-operate with the plaintiffs and their agents in order to advance their applications to the point of readiness to be heard in the appropriate forums."

None of the allegations in the lawsuit have been proven in court. 

with files from Bartley Kives and Cameron MacLean