Oil Giant Takes City to Court

A major petroleum retailer, Imperial Oil Ltd., has filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court to try to force the City of Vancouver to award a development permit for a new gas station at 4064 Fraser Street.

The court application states that the site is next door to city-owned property and names the city's codirectors of planning, Ann McAfee and Larry Beasley, as respondents. Imperial Oil lawyer Simon Wells, McAfee, and Beasley did not return messages from the Straight by deadline. The city has not yet filed a response in court, and at this point the company's allegations remain unproven.

According to the petition, a gas station was on the site from at least 1963 to September 2000. "Imperial had determined that the Site and City property adjacent to the Site was contaminated with hydrocarbons from historic operations," the petition states. "In 2000, Imperial decided to demolish and remove structures on the Site, obtain approval from the [then Environment] Ministry for a remediation plan, and, at the same time, to obtain approval from the City to redevelop the Site with a new service station operation."

Imperial Oil alleged that in January 2001 and May 2002, the city provided the company with "prior to permit issuance" letters. The letters stated that the director of planning had approved the development permit application for construction of a gas station and retail store.

However, Imperial Oil alleged that the respondents "deliberately and wilfully exceeded their jurisdiction by imposing a new condition that they know exceeds their statutory authority".

On January 29, 2004, according to Imperial Oil's petition, the city's Office of Environmental Protection stated that the development permit would not be issued until the company executed an "offsite soils agreement" or until it removed "all" remaining contamination on city property.

"The City had never before suggested that all offsite contamination be removed and had actually refused permission to Imperial to remove some of the contaminated soil on City property when Imperial asked to do so in the summer of 2003," the company alleged.

The corporation has claimed in its court petition that it has invested approximately $900,000 in site remediation. Imperial alleged that the city's delay in issuing the permit will cost another $25,000 per month in lost revenue beginning June 1.

The property has an assessed value of $1,234,000.