Exclusive: Calgary family suing city for $30M, demands development review
Suit alleges defamatory memo at closed-door council meeting
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A $30 million lawsuit against the City of Calgary is raising new concerns about how public consultation surrounding new developments is carried out.
The Brodylo family owns a 129 hectare farm in southwest Calgary, and previously raised concerns over a blocked city culvert that led to flooding their land.
The flooding is at the crux of their lawsuit, with an ask of $15 million for damages for nuisance, and an additional $15 million for failing to maintain and repair the culvert.
They are also asking for a judicial review of the Providence Area Structure Plan (ASP) – the plan for the community.
"We feel we have been very unfairly treated by the city,” said Leslie Chisholm, a member of the Brodylo family.
Their farm is located next to the planned community of Providence, which will be west of the Southwest Ring Road and south of the Tsuut’ina Nation. In December 2015, city council approved the ASP for Providence.
However city emails and documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show that a legal brief about the family was prepared by city lawyers in the days before the ASP was approved, and that councillors went behind closed doors at the council meeting to receive the document.
The Brodylo family is now alleging that the memo may have tainted council’s decision on the matter.
“Citizens of Calgary should be extremely concerned about the methodology being employed in order for the City to achieve its goals," said Chisholm.
The matter is still before the courts and none of the allegations have been proven.
Metro reached out to the city, but a spokesperson said that because the matter is before the courts, no one would be able to comment.
The chain of emails obtained through freedom of information begins with then-city planner Jill Sonego asking two city lawyers to help prepare a legal brief about the family.
“Councillor (Diane) Colley-Urquhart also shared with me today that she would like to make a motion at the beginning of the council meeting on Monday (Dec. 7 2015) to move in camera to discuss the Brodylo family concerns and behaviour,” wrote Sonego.
The family had submitted a 50-page document opposing the ASP to council, and had reached out to local media including Metro News, which did publish a story about the family's concerns.
Sonego notes that Colley-Urquhart had attempted to have the Brodylo’s farm included as part of the ASP in July 2015, but that motion was voted down 9-6.
The legal memo, which was also obtained by the family, is titled "Providence Area Structure Plan - Brodylo Family."
It highlights concerns with the Brodylos at an open house for the ASP.
"The actions of the Brodylo family have become increasingly aggressive," reads the memo.
It alleges that threats were made to city staff.
"The family is now known to Corporate Security and will be watched closely at the public hearing," reads the memo, which goes on to say that extra security will be provided if necessary.
As part of the lawsuit, the Brodylos have submitted a sworn affidavit by their then-lawyer Judy Stewart, former mayor of Cochrane, who gave her impressions of what she witnessed at that open house.
Stewart's memory of the event was very different than city staff. She admits one of the brothers was frustrated with the lack of answers he was getting from one of the developer's representatives.
"What I heard being said to John (Brodylo) was an affront to me as a former elected official who understands the role of reasonable and well-informed staff in these settings," said Stewart in the affidavit.