A recent change to B.C.’s Strata Property Act should help solve some of the legal issues that contribute to the Lower Mainland’s housing crisis.

Although there are many opinions on the causes and solutions to the region’s housing problems, one fact on which everyone can agree is that many Lower Mainland municipalities are out of land – and the only way to build is up. The strata law change recognizes this fact.

While tracts of single-family homes continue to be bought and replaced by higher density strata complexes, lower density strata complexes, perfectly suitable for redevelopment remain untouched. In order for developers to buy a strata complex for redevelopment, they must buy all of the strata lots individually or, prior to the Strata Property Act change, all the owners had to agree to sell the complex as a whole. The more owners involved in any sale, the harder it was to reach a consensus.

A developer interested in redeveloping a piece of land occupied by single-family homes might need to buy only a handful of lots. A developer interested in redeveloping an existing strata property on land of equal size might need to buy more than 20 strata lots. At some point, there were simply too many sheep to herd.

Until recently, selling the strata complex as a whole in B.C. was equally problematic because a strata corporation was required to reach a unanimous vote, which in effect gave each owner veto power.

But changes to the Strata Property Act, which came into effect on July 28, allow owners to sell the complex as a whole after obtaining an 80% yes vote. The strata corporation will still have to obtain a court order confirming the resolution. At that time, those opposed to the sale will presumably have an opportunity to convince the court to override the will of the majority and refuse to allow the sale.

In considering whether to confirm the resolution, the court will take many factors into consideration. Specifically, the best interests of all owners, fairness to the charge holders and any ongoing uncertainty that might result. How these changes play out remains to be seen. Developers have already started buying strata lots, and expressing interest in buying existing strata complexes, with Vancouver’s West End a prime neighbourhood for such redevelopments.

Given the strata corporation’s total value is greater than the sum of its parts, it follows that strata-lot owners are set to receive offers that are well above what they could get selling their units individually for continued habitation.

In a rising market, it is difficult to imagine a court would thwart the will of the majority to sell the strata complex at a significant premium. However, in a declining market, one could envision prejudice to creditors and other considerations that might tip the scales the other way.

The changes to the Strata Property Act are an example of an evolving policy. A policy that aims to benefit all stakeholders, including strata lot owners, developers and those looking to get into a market that is desperately short on supply.

Wes McMillan is a lawyer at Hakemi & Ridgedale LLP. His practice focuses on real estate and construction disputes

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It was at a Vancouver hackathon when a tech entrepreneur asked lawyer Luca Citton a question seemingly inspired by the history of Facebook (NASDAQ:FB): should the startup founder settle his legal issues up front or focus on getting his product to market as quickly as possible?

“As a lawyer, this just scares you because what someone is telling you is, ‘I’m going to build my house on a sandy beach knowing that waves are going to come in and take the sand back out to the ocean,” said Citton, who specializes in corporate and commercial law at Vancouver’s Boughton Law.

While he appreciates costs can be an issue for any startup, he said too many are falling into the trap of using “one-size-fits-all” online legal services that don’t always reflect B.C. laws.

If the founders have a falling out, the legal repercussions could be far costlier than any upfront costs, according to Citton.

As Vancouver Startup Week kicks off Monday (September 26), tech entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to mull over the potential legal consequences of building their own companies on a foundation of sand.

One seminar offers tips to founders on how to develop “prenups” for startups that require splitting job responsibilities and equity among the core team.

Meanwhile, McCarthy Tétrault LLP has partnered with Toronto’s MaRS LegalX cluster to bring the half-day LexTech West conference to Vancouver during startup week.

Lawyer Matt Peters, McCarthy Tétrault’s national innovation leader, said advancements in artificial intelligence have the potential to greatly impact the legal business.

“Our job as lawyers (is) to be able to identify some of those tools and help clients really get, for example, faster deals done because we can do due diligence in a more technology-augmented way that will speed things up,” he said.

More information about Vancouver Startup Week can be found here.

torton@biv.com

@reporton

 

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Tsawwassen Mills tackles major recruitment crunch

Mega-mall to operate employee shuttle while retailers pay wages higher than minimum wage
The 1.2-million-square-foot Tsawwassen Mills mall is slated to open October 5 | Ivanhoé Cambridge

Tsawwassen Mills management is taking extraordinary steps to attract workers in time for the 1.2-million-square-foot mall’s October 5 launch, but the mall’s tenants continue to find recruitment a challenge.

The mall announced in a September 20 email to tenants it will operate a daily employee-shuttle service that leaves the mall, which is at the corner of Highway 17 and 52nd Street, every half hour between 8:15 a.m. and 10:15 p.m. Service on Sundays will end two hours earlier.

It will travel to Scott Road SkyTrain station, where it would also leave every half hour. Each trip would take 25 minutes.

Fees for the shuttle, the only one at a Metro Vancouver mall, will be $2 each way or $40 for a monthly pass.

“The shuttle will help fill a gap in the public transit system” Tsawwassen Mills general manager Mark Fenwick told Business in Vancouver.

He said that a yet-to-be-named professional charter bus company would operate two 24-passenger buses on the route to the mall, which is in the low-density southwest corner of Metro Vancouver.

Retail Insider Media owner Craig Patterson said he had never heard of such a shuttle being operated by a shopping mall in Canada but added that it highlights the difficulty tenants are having hiring employees. He commended mall owner Ivanhoé Cambridge for finding the innovative solution.

“We’ve hired zero staff at the moment, unfortunately,” said Joe Dagony, CEO of Yogibo Canada, which manufactures and sells beanbag chairs. “Hiring is a challenge as we don’t get too many emails and applications in Tsawwassen.”

Dagony already operates a store in Coquitlam, and he is opening two new stores in October: one in Tsawwassen and one at Metropolis at Metrotown.

“Metrotown is not a problem for hiring,” he said. “We get tons of resumés. It’s easier for more people to commute with SkyTrain. Burnaby is also a more populated area than Tsawwassen.”

Bass Pro Shop general manager Gerry MacIntyre agreed with Dagony, telling Business in Vancouver that “everyone in the [Tsawwassen Mills] mall is feeling the same anxiety.”

MacIntyre’s task is much bigger than Dagony’s, however, because MacIntyre needs about 400 employees for his 148,000-square-foot outdoor, camping supply and adventure store. Dagony aims to hire eight people by opening day and then to ramp up to 20 workers by the holiday season.

All of the 300 people MacIntyre has hired so far will be paid at least 5% more than minimum wage with most earning much more.

Dagony starts workers at $12 per hour, plus commissions that he said will likely add at least $3 per hour to that wage.

Most of McIntyre’s workers come from Delta, which includes the Tsawwassen and Ladner districts, he added.

“If you’re coming by car from Richmond, you have to pass through the [George Massey] tunnel. Your work schedule will be approximately when there is a single lane going in your direction because three lanes of the tunnel all go in the direction of the rush hour.”

McIntyre expects that only “a few” of his employees will take public transit.

TransLink services the mall with three buses. There’s an express bus that goes between Bridgeport Canada Line station in Richmond and the Tsawwassen ferry terminal, a second bus that goes on a similar route but has more stops and a third bus that is a smaller and travels between central Tsawwassen and the Tsawwassen First Nation lands.

Fenwick told BIV that he also plans to operate a free shuttle that goes between the mall and the Tsawwassen ferry terminal to match ferry arrivals.

“That way people from Victoria and Nanaimo can leave their car on the island, walk on the ferry and take our complimentary shuttle to the mall,” he said.

He said the mall’s 6,000 parking stalls will include 75 handicap spaces, 14 stalls for electric vehicles and 22 for car-share programs, although Fenwick has yet to ink any agreements with car-share companies to provide vehicles. •

gkorstrom@biv.com  

@GlenKorstrom

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Lawsuit of the week: Nut suppliers allege packaging of ‘inferior’ Overwaitea house brand confusing consumers

A group of nut suppliers is suing Overwaitea Food Group, Great Pacific Industries Inc. and Western Family Foods Ltd., claiming the grocery chain abruptly stopped ...
A group of nut suppliers is suing Overwaitea Food Group, Great Pacific Industries Inc. and Western Family Foods Ltd., claiming the grocery chain abruptly stopped carrying their pistachios and other nuts in favour of a store brand sold in “identical or confusingly similar” packaging.

The Wonderful Company LLC and licensees Wonderful Pistachios & Almonds LLC, Cal Pure Produce Inc. and WP Pistachios LLC filed a notice of civil claim against Overwaitea Food Group LP, Overwaitea Food Group Ltd., Great Pacific Industries Inc., Overwaitea Pharmacies Ltd. and Western Family Foods Ltd. in BC Supreme Court on September 12.

The nut suppliers claim the defendants, which operate several grocery chains including Overwaitea, Save-On-Foods, Urban Fare, Cooper’s Foods and PriceSmart Foods, sold their “Wonderful” branded nuts for many years.

“Recently, the Defendants arranged with each other to cease selling the Plaintiffs’ pistachio nuts and instead have sold other pistachio nuts in private label packaging that is identical or confusingly similar to the Plaintiff’s distinctive packaging,” the claim states. “The Defendants’ wrongful conduct is calculated to confuse, deceive and mislead consumers.”

The Wonderful Company’s designs and associated marks “constitute a well-known and distinctive family of trade-marks,” and the companies have supplied the defendants since 2010, according to the lawsuit. Overwaitea ended the relationship on August 26, 2016, and the plaintiffs claim the defendants began selling “pistachio nuts that are of material inferior quality” in packaging nearly identical to Wonderful-branded nuts.

The plaintiffs seek declarations that they own the “distinctive” Wonderful marks, and that defendants have passed off their products deceptively in breach of the Competition Act. The defendants had not filed a response by press time, and the allegations have not been tested or proven in court.

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Renewables meet energy realities in a recent International Energy Agency (IEA) report.

For anyone championing the renewable energy agenda, there is more light on the horizon; for energy realists, there’s a lot of business as usual.

In its inaugural World Energy Investment report, the IEA noted that global energy investment in 2015 was US$1.8 trillion. That’s down 8% from 2014.

Oil and gas continue to represent close to 50% of that investment, but the IEA pointed out that electricity investment hit a record US$690 billion, driven in large part by the US$290 billion that flowed into wind, solar and hydropower. Renewables, the global energy organization stated, “are reshaping the electricity system.” Investment in energy efficiency, up 6% in 2015 compared with 2014, is also helping reduce energy demand and pollution. That’s all good news for the world’s cleaner, more efficient energy system aspirations.

However, fossil fuels remain the world’s dominant energy sources and will for the foreseeable future.

While the energy role for fossil-fuel pariah coal is decreasing in Europe and other regions, its affordability and availability are increasing its investment appeal in rapidly accelerating economic engines like India. The IEA also pointed out that investment in renewable energy sources often requires additional funding in networks to integrate them into power grids.

It concluded that, while investment in renewables is rising, neither it nor the innovation in technology needed to achieve climate change and energy security objectives is rising fast enough.

The economic wherewithal to drive that innovation will continue to reside in fossil fuels. Canada can play a big part in powering that initiative, but only if its energy riches are allowed to reach world markets.

Despite what one-dimensional, anti-fossil fuel factions would have the world believe, oil, gas and coal are not only critical to the current global economy but also critical to helping the world migrate to cleaner forms of energy.

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