The old CN Rail line as it passes near the entrance to the Day family property in Oyama.

Lake Country homeowner suing over Okanagan Rail Trail

Homeowner asking for proper compensation as Old CN Rail corridor from Kelowna to Vernon passes through his land

The District of Lake Country is being sued in a dispute over a portion of the Okanagan Rail Trail that passes through an Oyama property.

Colin Day and his wife Moira have filed a civil suit in BC Supreme Court asking for compensation after a portion of their land was expropriated by the Inter-Jurisdictional Team, which represented Lake Country, in its purchase of the old CN Rail corridor.

The corridor passes through the Day’s lakeshore property on Wood Lake, a 740 foot stretch of the trail that comes within several metres of their family home, which they have owned since 1985.

In documents filed in Supreme Court, the Day family says loss in value, damages and disruption caused by the rail trail “significantly exceeds the advance payment compensation made…in the amount of $286,500.”

When contacted Wednesday, Day said he was in negotiations with the Inter-jurisdictional Development Team to come to a fair settlement when his land was expropriated, forcing him to file the lawsuit.

Previously the Day family purchased the right of first refusal for the corridor moving through its land.

“We’ve tried to find a solution to the problem,” he said. “We offered to put the trail in the orchard and they didn’t want to do that. We offered to put half the trail in the orchard and half on the right-of-way and they refused to do that. We offered to sell the whole property at market value and then they could do what they want. We’re trying to to find a solution and that didn’t happen for whatever reason.”

In a statement, the District of Lake Country said that it made a payment to the Days based on an accredited appraiser’s report of the value of the lands and the impacts to the Day’s property, noting the district would file its response with the courts within the proper timeframe.

Lake Country Mayor James Baker says the lawsuit comes as a surprise to him, saying he thought the matter was being dealt with by the Inter-jurisdictional Development Team (IDT).

“When we started the process we were told the sale would be free of encumbrances,” said Baker. “This is a surprise. We weren’t party to what the negotiations were and everything was confidential.”

Baker referred further questions to the IDT, being led by the real estate division at the City of Kelowna or to Lake Country administration.

Lake Country resident Ron Volk says the district knew full well of the issues surrounding the Day property and he even filed Freedom of Information requests to Lake Country, asking that the amount paid to expropriate the Day property be released.

In a response to Volk’s FOI request, Lake Country refused to release the figure citing  a clause in the the FOI Act that reads”a public body may refuse to disclose to an applicant information the disclosure of which could reasonably be expected to harm the financial or economic interests of a public body…”

“We tried to warn people before the referendum that this is going to cost the district a bundle,” said Volk. “There are a bunch of us that voted no in the referendum that are still bitter because of the true costs of buying this. The taxpayer will end up paying. It’s a terrible situation.”

Day is a former Kelowna city councillor who moved to Lake Country and bought the property in 1985. The lot is 10.33 acres with the rail trail taking up 740 feet as it passed through the parcel of land

The District of Lake Country, along with the City of Kelowna and the North Okanagan Regional District combined to purchase the old corridor from CN for $22 million dollars.

“This is very upsetting for my wife and my family,” said Day. “We have a beautiful spot that has been changed with public access right into our yard. If you live in a rural orchard and you own 12  acres of land, you don’t expect people to be walking that close to your house. It’s a real change in lifestyle. We just want fair compensation, fair market value.”

There is no date yet set for the civil case.

It’s not the first court case relating to the rail trail as the Okanagan Indian Band also sued but failed to stop the progress of the trail, before joining the IDT in the end.

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