'Give us a fair price:' Judge slaps B.C. government for taking land from North Shuswap senior | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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'Give us a fair price:' Judge slaps B.C. government for taking land from North Shuswap senior

The provincial government tried to get land the Bowolins have owned for decades for less than half its fair market value, forcing the family to sue.
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December 07, 2017 - 6:30 PM

KELOWNA – When the provincial government wants your land, you expect it to negotiate a fair price. If it really needs your land, you know it can just take it, but you still expect a fair price, right?

Not in the case of North Shuswap man Rudy Bowolin, 78. When the B.C. Transportation Finance Authority wanted land his family owned for nearly five decades, they took it and according to a B.C. Supreme Court judge paid “several orders of magnitude below what had previously been offered.”

According to interviews and judgements, the province initially offered $350,000 then $400,000 for a chunk of their North Shuswap land to build a road. When the Bowolins declined, the authority exercised its right to expropriate the land.

When it did, it paid Bowolin just $144,740, effectively forcing Rudy and his wife Louise to sue. Not only did the judge toss the expropriation order adn the low-balled payment, he took the unusual step of ordering the transportation authority to pay costs because of its "unreasonable" actions.

The Bowolins have owned their roughly 100 acres of property off Highway 1 between Sicamous and Revelstoke for 47 years.

Four or five years ago, they got a letter from the Ministry of Transportation asking for permission to survey their land. They agreed.

“What could it hurt?” Rudy says. “If they break a branch, they’ll fix it.”

Or so he thought.

Within a year, the couple were informed that the Minister of Transportation needed five of their acres, including a registered gravel pit, for the Norfolk Bridge Project.

Work began before the Ministry even made them an offer, he says.

“They started taking out our road,” he says. “Bowolin Road is a paved road we’ve had for 40 years…. They took two acres off a ten-acre parcel, took the gravel off the road and used it for their project.”

Rudy says he and his wife were willing to sell some of the land, but not the road.

“They put the glom on it,” he says. “Now we’ve got 65 acres we can’t do nothing with.”

The Bowolins estimate the gravel pit alone to be worth more than $400,000 at $3 per cubic metre of gravel.

"Three years ago, a land assessor working for (the Ministry of Transportation) walked up and said this is what we’re going to give you (this amount),” Rudy says. "We told him no way and he said if we didn’t go with the price they would expropriate."

Two years later the Ministry did expropriate and gave them less than half.

In his reasons for judgement awarding the Bowolins costs, Supreme Court Justice Joel Groves said the bureaucrat handling the file is at least partially obligated to rely on property valuations in determining a fair value for payment.

“On seemingly their own volition and with no reports or analysis to bolster their decision, the Officer made an offer dramatically different in value than what the valuations and previous negotiations suggested was appropriate,” he says.

“The Officer did not hear from both sides, nor is there an apparent mechanism for that to take place.”

It's back to the start now and it appears the transportation authority will have to try negotiation the Bowolins again. Rudy says they can start by offering what the gravel pit is worth. 

“We want to settle our gravel pit that they took from us,” he says. “Give us a fair price.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © iNFOnews, 2017

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