September 12, 2016 - 1:00 PM
KELOWNA - A long-simmering legal dispute over Curtis Road, a private road behind UBC Okanagan long used as a student short-cut, has seen a judge suspend all use by the university.
Doris Callaghan, a Curtis Road resident, said the judgement handed down Sept. 7 by Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson, suspends the use granted in February 2015 to students and staff in certain buildings.
“There was very limited use of the easement to begin with and the judge has suspended that use,” Callaghan said, one of seven petitioners named in the lawsuit.
The ruling is the latest step in a dispute that dates back to when Okanagan University College originally assembled land for its campus near Kelowna International Airport.
As part of the deal, an easement was granted onto Curtis Road and Callaghan says students began using it as a bike or pedestrian short cut just as soon as the university college opened in the early 1990s.
The number of students and staff using the easement kept climbing and Callaghan says fears of liability from someone having and accident on the unlit, unpaved road prompted residents to begin legal action in 2010.
While the latest ruling gives the petitioners what they want, Callaghan says she’s uncertain whether the university will appeal.
“I’m not sure what their next move will be. I sure hope this is the end of it,” she adds. “All I know is they have a legal team and taxpayer’s money to fight this. This has been emotionally stressful and costly to us as well.”
Her hope is that three new roads in various stages of development — Bulman Road, John Hindle Drive and Academy Way —which provide car and bike acccess to the campus will mean illegal use of the easement will taper off.
“It will be interesting to see. They have always purported Curtis Road was the only safe access. The irony is that John Hindle Drive goes right over the easement,” Callaghan added.
Callaghan says she does have some sympathy for the university which failed in its efforts to restrict access by students to the easement.
“These are students. They can be hard to manage. And there was the ongoing turnover of students each year,” she adds.
Although the dispute may not be over, Callaghan praised the justice system.
“It was a complex issue and in all fairness, they tried to make a system that would work for both sides,” she adds. “However UBCO were given ample opportunity to enforce the rules and they couldn’t do it."
UBC Okanagan did not immediatley respond to a request for an interview.
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