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British Columbia court rules City of Vernon arguments ‘without merit’ over 13-month permit delay

A British Columbia judge has given the city of Vernon 14 days to make a decision on a business permit application it has left pending without explanation for more than a year.

Landowner Yuri Alexander Bos submitted two applications to the city on January 9, 2023. The applications were for business licenses that would allow him to operate outdoor storage facilities on two adjacent properties he owns on 34th Street in the city .

According to the decision of Justice Sandra Wilkinson of the Supreme Court of British Columbia – handed down Monday and posted on Tuesday – Bos submitted two separate applications because city staff asked him to do so. He had previously submitted a single application for both properties.

When Bos submitted the separate applications, a city staff member told him he would receive a response in “approximately two weeks,” according to the decision.

More than a month later, on February 26, 2023, Bos had received no such response. On that date, the decision states, he visited the city office in person and inquired about the status of the applications. He was told these requests are still under review and processing times are typically two to four weeks.

It was not until May 26, 2023 that an operating permit was issued for one of the two properties, referred to as “4604” throughout the decision. Bos never received a decision on the other request, called “4600.”

He filed his petition for judicial review of the city’s licensing approval process in November 2023, and Wilkinson held a hearing on the matter earlier this month.

“As of the date of the petition hearing, March 4, 2024, the petitioner has not received any updates on the status of the application regarding 4600,” the decision states.

The city’s proposals are “unfounded”

Bos filed his motion for judicial review seeking a writ of “mandamus” — essentially a court order compelling a government official to take or refrain from taking an action — requiring the city to approve his request.

The city, in its response to Bos’s filing, asserted that his motion was “deficient” and left the city “guessing about the matter it needed to respond to,” according to Wilkinson’s decision.

The judge rejected this argument, calling it “baseless.”

“Not only has the City filed a comprehensive response to the Petition, but it has also responded to Petitioner’s claims based on the merits of the Petition,” the decision states. “This is not a case in which the petitioner failed to properly identify the legal basis for the relief sought.”

The city also argued that Bos failed to exhaust all alternative remedies available to him before filing his petition, an argument Wilkinson also found to be without merit.

According to the decision, the city claimed Bos should have filed a request with the Vernon City Council to reconsider its decision to deny a business license.

“The City completely ignores the fact that no decision has been made regarding Petitioner’s business license application for 4600,” the decision states. “At no time prior to the hearing of the motion did the city request clarification of the claims. (Planning Staff Member) Mr. Nuriel, who provided an affidavit in support of the City’s response, fails to mention the existence of the 4600 application or any other reason why the City has not haven’t made a decision.”

The judge concluded that the city’s delay was unreasonable and that a writ of mandamus was the appropriate remedy, but she did not go so far as to order the city to approve the permit.

Wilkinson instead ordered the city to make a decision on the pending application within 14 days of its ruling. If the decision it makes is to refuse authorization, it must provide reasons for its decision.

The judge rejected Bos’ request for damages because the provincial Judicial Review Procedure Act – which governs the judicial review process – does not allow such compensation.

Wilkinson, however, chose to order the city to pay Bos’s legal costs.

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