‘Band Aid’ set­tle­ment reached in condo suit

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - TEVIAH MORO tmoro@thes­pec.com 905-526-3264 | @Te­vi­ahMoro

BURLING­TON — The city has reached a set­tle­ment agree­ment with a condo cor­po­ra­tion that’s su­ing the mu­nic­i­pal­ity over struc­tural prob­lems in its build­ing.

The deal comes as an en­gi­neer­ing re­port filed for an­other law­suit in­volv­ing the New Street build­ing calls it a “time bomb” that should be va­cated.

In­ad­e­quate con­crete floor slabs and a sus­pect roof threaten 2411 New St.’s struc­tural in­tegrity — a prob­lem an en­gi­neer­ing firm once es­ti­mated could cost mil­lions to rem­edy.

“It’s per­haps the best Band Aid avail­able, but a Band Aid, nonethe­less,” Colin Brown, a mem­ber of the condo board, said Wed­nes­day.

Both law­suits — one on be­half of the cor­po­ra­tion and the other for 26 in­di­vid­ual own­ers — al­lege the city was neg­li­gent in ap­prov­ing the con­struc­tion of the apart­ment build­ing in 1965 and its con­ver­sion to con­dos in 1998.

The city and other de­fen­dants, in­clud­ing the Hamil­ton de­vel­oper be­hind the con­ver­sion, have re­jected the al­le­ga­tions, which haven’t been tested in court.

Burling­ton of­fi­cials have con­firmed a set­tle­ment agree­ment in the condo cor­po­ra­tion’s $20-mil­lion law­suit has been reached but won’t share its terms.

“A set­tle­ment agree­ment has been reached, the de­tails of which re­mains con­fi­den­tial,” city spokesper­son Kwab Ako-Ad­jei said.

Re­cent memos to res­i­dents from the prop­erty man­ager and law firm Smith Va­le­ri­ote note work to re­place the roof and re­pair “af­fected units” is ex­pected to be put out to ten­der.

What’s not clear is how much work will be done, what it will cost and who’s pay­ing for what.

Brown said he didn’t know the dol­lar fig­ure. Smith Va­le­ri­ote didn’t re­spond to a re­quest for comment.

Mar­i­anne Meed Ward, city coun­cil­lor for the area, said she couldn’t comment on the set­tle­ment agree­ment be­cause she’s not privy to its “full de­tails.”

“The res­i­dents who have con­tacted me have been look­ing for a res­o­lu­tion to this mat­ter, and would be in the best po­si­tion to comment. Even though this mat­ter is out of coun­cil’s hands and with in­sur­ance for res­o­lu­tion, I too am in­ter­ested to hear res­i­dents’ thoughts on this.”

Mayor Rick Goldring didn’t re­spond to a re­quest for comment.

In April 2016, the city ar­gued en­gi­neers re­ported the six-storey build­ing’s prob­lems could be ad­dressed for be­tween $670,000 and $770,000.

An en­gi­neer who filed re­ports for the plain­tiffs in 2009 and 2014 called that work the “min­i­mum re­pair.” It would in­volve re­in­forc­ing bow­ing con­crete floor slabs in at least 15 of the 56-unit build­ing’s worst units with car­bon fi­bre straps, Stephen Blaney said at the time.

The city has in­sisted the build­ing is safe while re­ject­ing any re­spon­si­bil­ity for its prob­lems.

“The build­ing is struc­turally sound now, and not at risk of col­lapse,” of­fi­cials said in 2016, adding it “has been stand­ing for more than 50 years with­out any sign of struc­tural fail­ure.”

A new en­gi­neer­ing re­port ob­tained by The Spec­ta­tor says that shouldn’t pro­vide peace of mind.

“The fact that it is still stand­ing is not in­dica­tive of its safety, on this ba­sis ev­ery build­ing that has col­lapsed has been safe to the mo­ment of col­lapse,” Pa­trick Quinn writes in his De­cem­ber re­port pre­pared for law firm Martin & Hil­lyer. Quinn also points to an “in­ad­e­quate roof.” “The con­se­quences of even a par­tial col­lapse of the roof slab will un­doubt­edly be cat­a­strophic.”

Res­i­dents in the build­ing say they didn’t know about its struc­tural prob­lems un­til a damn­ing en­gi­neer­ing re­port in 2009.

Their in­vest­ments badly com­pro­mised, sell­ing at a loss is not an op­tion for some who are re­tired on fixed in­comes or live on mod­est wages.

The law­suits, launched in 2010 and 2011, have dragged on.

The sec­ond, han­dled by Martin & Hil­lyer on be­half of the in­di­vid­ual own­ers, was sched­uled for trial in Jan­uary but was ad­journed for a year with a set­tle­ment in the offing for the first law­suit.

“As you know, many of our clients are strug­gling im­mensely so we are keen to try the case as soon as pos­si­ble,” Laura Hil­lyer wrote in email to The Spec­ta­tor, de­clin­ing to say more.

HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR FILE PHOTO

Colin Brown is a res­i­dent of 2411 New St., a condo build­ing with ma­jor struc­tural prob­lems.

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