High drama in New West courtroom 101

The local papers have yet to take note and make mention of it, but the Windsor Hotel court case against the city got underway the week before last; and it could have serious financial implications for New Westminster taxpayers with damages to the Windsor Hotel’s former owner, Nirmal Walia, said to be potentially in the millions of dollars.

In his suit, Walia contends that promises were made to him by the city to the effect that if he agreed to sell the Windsor Hotel property on Columbia Street to a developer he would be allowed to move the hotel’s liquor store license to a new location on 12th Street and that he would receive the necessary rezoning to do so.

Sources tell us that Walia has already been on the stand, and so has former New Westminster City Planner Tim Whitehead who headed up the city’s Development Services Department when the Windsor Hotel / 12th Street liquor store issue was unfolding.

On the stand, Whitehead reportedly made several negative comments about the state of the New Westminster Planning Department and its staff prior to his arrival on the scene.

Whitehead’s comments on the stand are said to be quite a departure from statements he made in his examination for discovery wherein his response to many of the questions put to him was, “I don’t remember, I don’t recall.”

For those interested in attending the court proceedings, Walia’s lawyers are expected to continue their cross-examination of Whitehead all day on Tuesday (July 6th).

Following Whitehead on stand, those listed as possible witnesses in the case are Mayor Wayne Wright and planners Steven Scheving and Jim Hurst.

To say the least it’s going to be very interesting to watch this case unfold. For one thing, elected officials cannot promise the outcome of any public hearing process before it takes place as has been alleged. So if Nirmal Walia did receive assurances that he would get a rezoning and be able to move his liquor store license to 12th Street it raises some very serious questions indeed.

We’ll continue to keep our eyes and ears open and bring you new information as we receive it.

11 thoughts on “High drama in New West courtroom 101

  1. Thanks for bringing this into the public domain. You guys are bang-on in a lot of what you say.
    I am an ex-NW staff member – what a circus it was. Mr Whitehead was the conductor of the frenetic atmosphere in the planning department.
    Things obviously were being directed by the Mayor – Whitehead was constantly being called in and out of there at a moments notice.
    What a laughable situation it was.
    Talk about political micromanaging.
    Four or five developers could do no wrong and had their run of the place. Variances, rezonings, density bonusing, whoever said money talks is bang on. I’d say more, but you probably wouldn’t print it. The word lapdog comes to mind if you know what I mean.

  2. You and I will be paying. It is just a matter of how much. We will either just pay for the legal costs, and it would be interesting to see the total of those surrounding this issue over the years, or we pay more if Mr. Walia wins his suit.

  3. Will, the question is not if 12th Street or the West End needs a liquor sales store but rather about the process that may have taken place in order to arrange such.
    BTW: this legal process is definitely adding to the cost of those cold ones. 😉

  4. Windsor Hotel lawsuit lands New West in court

    By Michael McQuillan – New Westminster News Leader
    Published: July 06, 2010 3:00 PM
    Updated: July 06, 2010 3:23 PM

    Tim Whitehead, the former city planner now at the centre of a civil lawsuit, has forgotten many of his dealings with a local businessman now suing him and the city.

    Whitehead took the stand Friday (July 2), and again Monday and Tuesday this week in New Westminster Provincial Court and was peppered with questions about his involvement with a proposed liquor store on 12th Street and the Downtown Interurban condominium project.

    “I can’t recall,” answered Whitehead to numerous questions about meetings with local businessman Nirmal Walia and developer Peter Newall.

    The city’s former director of development services and the city are being sued by Walia and his company PSD Enterprises for negligence and damages resulting from a real estate deal gone bad. Walia claims that in 2006 Whitehead and New Westminster agreed that if he sold the Windsor Hotel to Newall and his company Ballenas Project Management, the city would allow him to relocate his private liquor store to a location on 12th Street.

    Walia sold the Columbia Street hotel for $2 million to Ballenas but never received the OK from council to relocate his liquor store.

    The rezoning for his 12th Street location received third reading approval after a public hearing in August 2006 but was later rescinded after Walia spoke about his application at a council meeting, a move which legally required city council to rescind its third reading vote because the public process was seen to have been contaminated.

    At a second public hearing and third reading in October 2006, council voted against the rezoning.

    Walia claims he subsequently lost his pub and liquor store licences as a result of the city’s actions.

    In response to questioning from Walia’s lawyer Bill Veenstra Monday, Whitehead said that he couldn’t recall the contents of emails, dates of meetings or if the meetings with the affected parties ever occurred.

    He was particularly confused when asked about details surrounding the rescinding of council’s third reading that approved Walia’s liquor store on 12th and the scheduling of a second public hearing on the relocation.

    Whitehead did admit he felt some responsibility for not stopping Walia from speaking about the rezoning at a council meeting—resulting in the third reading being rescinded.

    He also discredited planning employee Stephen Scheving, who worked on the Interurban project and with Walia. He told the court Scheving’s planning reports and emails were full of “tangents.”

    Whitehead, now a senior lecturer at the University of Portsmouth’s School of Environmental Design and Management in England, resigned from his position without notice in March 2007.

    The trial continues this week. Scheving and mayor Wayne Wright are a few of the other witnesses expected to testify.

    Walia says he wants the city to pay him damages and cover court costs, which he claims could reach $2 million

  5. Does Mr. Wallia also have the past city lawyer and our current planner named is his court action? I hope they too take the stand in New West court room 101. The public can handle and deserves to know the truth!

  6. Seems there was an altercation in the court room between the claimant and the former Director of planning.
    This happened during the break. The judge was out of chambers.
    It gets curiouser and curiouser.
    What was the former Director doing even being in the same area as the claimant?
    It seems that there is great substance to the old saw that goes like this: In a war, the first casualty is the truth.

  7. Seems to me the wrong prople are sueing. The truth is the businesses and residents surrounding 12th Street who were dragged through three years of misery while the Windsor owner and the the city ignored concerns of the majority. These preople should be sueing both parties as this was about clearing out the rat infested Windsor from the downtown area known as Waynesville, and the Windsor so he could make Two Million on the sale and salvage his licence by dumping it in a hole in the wall on 12th, for later sale and more millions….
    Not sure what went on under the table but I beleive the judge should turf this case based on the fact two parties entered into an agreement which backfired on both of them.

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