The Ontario Municipal Board has no jurisdiction to award costs against lawyers, said the counsel for the law firm that helped Innisfil residents battle a huge development on Lake Simcoe.
The developer, who won the case, is now demanding that the protesting residents and their law firm pay $3.2 million in legal costs the company incurred fighting back last year.
“The role of the counsel is to follow instructions – that’s what my clients did,” said Jeff Cowan, who was representing Gilberts LLP and its lawyers on the third day of the costs hearing yesterday. The board can only award costs if the lawyers are not acting as lawyers but are the de facto party involved, Cowan argued.
All eyes are on this case, which could set a precedent for other clashes between developers and residents against urban sprawl.
Critics of the $1 billion project called Big Bay Point Resort near Innisfil say that the developers’ demand for legal costs is an attempt to silence citizens and ratepayers. They also say that the project is detrimental to the environment and the health of Lake Simcoe.
When it was proposed six years ago, it provoked a spat between the developer and some residents, cottagers and environmentalists who claimed a development that large would threaten an already fragile Lake Simcoe.
The hearing continues today.
Lawyers cannot incur legal costs, OMB told