Chris Simon
It appears the owners of the Big Bay Point Resort are trying to settle outstanding legal issues with their detractors.
Kimvar Enterprises/Geranium Corporation, the owners of the proposed 235-hectare development situated along the Lake Simcoe shoreline, have attempted to reach a settlement to pending legal matters with four opponents — the Innisfil District Association, Kelly Clarke, John Bullock and Don Avery.
The litigation was launched by Kimvar several years ago, with claims opponents had committed libel, intentional interference and conspiracy against the resort owner. Opponents have suggested Kimvar was seeking nearly $85 million in damages.
An end to the legal matters are being negotiated, says Kimvar president Earl Rumm.
“We are in negotiations to end the suits, and it would really be inappropriate for me to comment (further) at this point,” he said, in an interview with The Scope earlier this week. “Having said that, these negotiations to drop the suits are not one-sided. They are not strictly on Geranium’s desire to drop them; it’s a combined effort on all parties.”
IDA representatives say they met with Kimvar lawyers earlier this month. However, they have yet to receive either further correspondence or a firm offer from the developer since.
Opponents are seeking compensation for their legal expenses, and a guarantee they can continue to freely criticize the resort project.
“We’re hoping our lawyers can work it out,” said Avery, chair of the IDA. “My understanding is that a partial offer was made. Part of my lawsuit goes back seven years.”
Kimvar has attempted to recover costs from opponents before. In January 2009, the Ontario Municipal Board dismissed a $3.2 million cost recovery case against the Innisfil District Association, Nextnine Limited, 2025890 Ontario Inc., and Gilbert’s LLP lawyers Tim Gilbert and David Donnelly. Kimvar’s case related to an OMB hearing seeking approval for the resort. The developer won the hearing in 2007, but sought costs against the parties and their lawyers.
Kimvar was attempting to recover legal fees and expert costs for themselves, the County of Simcoe and the Town of Innisfil.
The suits have been used as a scare tactic by the developer, says IDA president Roger Parkinson.
“There’s a lot more talk than substance; there’s been talking, but no producing,” he said. “The IDA will not settle unless (our) costs are paid, and we will never agree to any kind of proposed confidentiality. The suits were made publicly to intimidate us, and we cannot be silent when Kimvar opt to sue us. There are no merits to the suits, and we have to be able to say that.”
Donnelly is curious over the timing of the settlement discussion.
“There’s still a number of other suits (outstanding),” he said, of the recent proposed settlement. “These are civil litigation matters, but it’s the same basic issue: Speaking out against the development. Generally, SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) suits are put on people for the purpose of intimidation. Has there been a dramatic development in the cases (or) some new piece of evidence? What happened to the principal matter that was raised in the first place? What were the suits all about?”
Rumm says money will likely not be part of a settlement agreement.
“There’s no amount,” he said. “It’s a question of us not proceeding; so there would not be suits, and the other side (is) as equally comfortable and happy.”
Once complete, the development will feature 1,600 residential housing units and 400 hotel rooms. It would also include 87-hectares of environmentally protected land, a golf course, 1,000-slip marina, conference centre, theatre, an indoor sports, recreation and fitness facility and retail space.