An attempt to convert a potentially costly gravel pit problem into a source of revenue for the Township of Langley ended up costing taxpayers an undisclosed amount of legal fees instead.
It was a plan that was supposed to generate $1.2 million by having a private company rehabilitate several former gravel pits, but when objections by residents to one such project led council to deny approval, the result was a court battle.
The exact cost of the Township legal dispute with Matcon Civil Constructors Inc. and Matcon Landfill Management Inc. hasn’t been revealed because the amount of an out-of-court settlement that ended the dispute is considered privileged information.
However, in response to a Times query, Township finance director Hilary Tsikayi did confirm on Tuesday that the settlement was included within the $374,900 listed as “insurance and settlements” costs in the Township 2013 financial statements.
That amount includes the cost of other, unrelated court cases.
In 2005, the Township was facing a potential $9.5 million bill to return the 17 former gravel pits it owned to their original condition, as required by law.
As a way around the problem, the Township engineering department proposed having a private company take over the gravel pits.
That would eliminate rehab costs for Langley and would even make some money because “revenue generated by the contractor from the receipts of fill will be shared with the Township,” a May 15, 2006 engineering department report to council said.
The same report projected the potential revenue for the Township would be “in excess of $1.2 million.”
Eleven companies applied for the contract, which went to Matcon Civil Constructors, which then created Matcon Landfill Management Inc. to handle the work.
In 2007, when residents’ objections led Langley Township council to turn down a proposal to have Matcon Landfill operate one of the former gravel pits as a fill site, the subsidiary sued the parent company, which then sued the Township.
Court documents filed with the B.C. Supreme Court registry in Vancouver show the private company argued the Township engineer breached the agreement by denying Matcon access to the site following the council vote.
The Township response said council, not the engineer, has the final say over landfill projects.
“At the time of entering the Fill Site Agreement, the parties understood and agreed that the Permit Application was subject to approval by Township council and that concerns from members of the public would be an appropriate factor for consideration by Township council,” said a May 2013 response filed on behalf of the Township by the Vancouver law firm Guild Yule.
“As of January and February 2007, [Matcon] knew or ought to have known that the Township council was facing public opposition to the proposed fill site on the property and that the soil deposit may not be approved,” the document added.
Court records show an out-of-court settlement between Matcon and the Township was reached around November of 2013.
A Freedom of Information request was filed with the Township in July of this year by Langley residents Kevin Mitchell and John Beauman to obtain the total settlement amount and reasons for the out-of-court settlement.
In response, the Guild Yule law firm wrote back in August to say the legal advice regarding the settlement by the firm to the Township was protected under solicitor-client privilege.
That privilege also covers the amount of the settlement, the Guild Yule letter says.
At press time, Matcon had not responded to a Times request for comment.