‘Band Aid’ settlement reached in condo suit
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.
Colin Brown is a resident of 2411 New St., a condo building with major structural problems.