'I got no choice,' says Danny Williams on court action filed against City of St. John's

The former premier says he isn't seeking money in the court action, but wants his Galway project to be subject to the same treatment as other high-profile ones around St. John's.

'Despite protestations that they treat everyone the same, paper trails clearly demonstrate otherwise'

Williams and the City of St. John's have sparred over several issues relating to the Galway development, including who should cover the costs associated with a roundabout. (Bruce Tilley)

Former premier Danny Williams claims he has been "backed into a corner" by the City of St. John's over stalled building permits for the Galway project, and that's why he is turning to the courts.

"We have to go to court and try and break this impasse, which is something I reluctantly do," he said.

"I mean, you know, we can't fight city hall — they control the future and everything else — but I got no choice." 

Williams has filed an application with the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador, claiming the city has "exceeded its authority" — specifically that the city is withholding additional building permits until Williams agrees to give up his right to take the city to court if any disputes arise.

No building permits means everything is being held up, according to Williams, including the new Costco store that is expected to relocate from Stavanger Drive. 

Williams says he has spent almost $100 million out of his own pocket on Galway. (CBC)

"I am not asking for special or preferential treatment, but I simply cannot spend almost $100 million out of my own pocket and give up my right to take legal action forevermore," said Williams, who is president and CEO of DewCor and the company 10718.

"It would be unconscionable and irresponsible, just as I would never expect the city to give up its right to sue me."

Williams: Galway project being singled out

Williams, who said he is not seeking any "financial compensation," said he is being targeted unfairly.

The City of St. John's requires development agreements (DA) prior to construction. But Williams insists many high-profile projects — like Kelsey Drive and Hebron Way — haven't been held to that rule and have proceeded with construction with either unsigned DAs or none at all. 

He said city staff members are demanding 16 development agreements for the first phase of Galway alone, and Access to Information requests filed by Williams have produced only 14 similar agreements for the whole city over 30 years.  

"I don't get it, I don't understand the rational for why they're doing this," said Williams.

"Despite protestations that they treat everyone the same, paper trails clearly demonstrate otherwise," said Williams.

Williams says city council gets to have the final say on the wording of development agreements, not city staff. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

In his application, Williams also asked a judge to order that city council — not city staff — make decisions on the granting of development agreements for Galway.

He is hoping for a speedy resolution. 

"I have trouble describing to you and to people generally what I'm experiencing down there ," he said.

"We're doing it by the book, every single nut and bolt and piece of pavement has been approved and inspected and has been signed off by the city ... and all of a sudden they throw another roadblock."

On Friday, the City of St. John's issued a news release saying it was served an application regarding the Galway Development.

The release said lawyers hired by the city will file a detailed defence to the allegations in court.

An email to the City of St. John's inquiring about other projects and the status of development agreements was not immediately answered on Monday. 

With files from Carolyn Stokes and Mark Quinn