In an article published by the Vancouver Courier, a senior Vancouver School Board official accused the Firenze Strata Corporation of delaying construction of the International School. The February 5th article written by Cheryl Rossi contains serious inaccuracies. Unfortunately, the Courier appears to have made no attempt to verify the information before publishing this misinformation..
Here is the response written by the Firenze Strata Council:
Memo: To the Residents of the False Creek Area via FCRA
From: Strata Council for the Firenze
Re: Correcting the Record
We are certain that most residents of our neighbourhood are aware that the International Village School is to be built adjacent to our property. We realize, as much as anyone, the need for this school, support its construction and anxiously await its completion.
We write to you as a result of an article published in the Vancouver Courier on February 5, 2015 under the headline “VSB (Vancouver School Board) settles with reluctant strata”. The article was not accurate and contained incorrect information and erroneous conclusions.
Among other things, the article quotes Jim Meschino, Director of Facilities for the VSB, as saying that the right to build the schools foundation through our existing parkade was included on the land title. This position has always been strenuously disputed by the Strata Corporation and, indeed, was to be subject of the court application which was on the verge of proceeding, but for the settlement reached between the VSB and our strata. Just because this issue was not tested in court does not mean that we abandoned our firmly held position on this issue. It simply means that both parties resolved to settle instead of waste resources in court.
He is quoted as stating that this was something that we either forgot or did not want to acknowledge. This too is strenuously disputed. The Strata Corporation did not forget or not want to acknowledge this, but rather we have maintained throughout that the documents at land title never authorized what the VSB was attempting to do.
He is also quoted as stating that the owners of the Firenze were concerned that the school would negatively affect our property values. This also is strenuously disputed. The Strata Corporation is keenly aware of what the issues are for our owners and, other than the units directly in line with the school walls, a concern that property values would be negatively affected was not then and is not now one of them.
By way of background our residents have always been aware of the plan to build a school adjacent to our building from the time before they purchased their units. We were surprised and shocked, however, when the Vancouver School Board approached us and informed us of their requirements (demands) in order to meet their construction schedule.
Either through lack of planning, miscommunication, or oversight on the part of the VSB there were a number of issues that we, as a strata council, needed resolved before we could allow the construction to begin. There were many issues (and no doubt there will be many more during the construction process) but just to give you an idea of the magnitude of our concerns here are some examples.
THE VSB demanded access to our parkade to construct several foundation pillars which were required to hold the weight of the new school which is being built directly above our parkade.
This was a shock to us as we had expected that because the school had been planned before the Firenze was built that the builder would have made the foundation strong enough to support its weight. We suspect this requirement was as a result of changed construction plans.
We informed the VSB that before the construction could proceed we required an independent engineers report to assure us that the alterations to our foundation would not result in any compromises to our existing foundation. This was not something the VSB offered, rather they acceded to a request which we made in this regard.
We were also concerned with the amount of insurance coverage in place in the event of a catastrophic failure and required assurance that our property would be adequately protected as a result of the VSB construction. This had to be negotiated.
We were also told that in order to re-enforce our foundation 150 of our residents needed to be displaced from their parking for a minimum period of 6 months. We had to negotiate the conditions under which this would happen and what compensation, if any, the residents would be entitled to.
We were also shocked to learn that the developer’s promise to the VSB of over 30 parking stalls for school staff parking was to be satisfied with the spaces that we, up until that moment, believed were ours for guest parking. There was nothing registered on our Title to state that the VSB parking stalls were to come from the guest parking stalls allotted to the Strata Corporation. This demand needed to be negotiated and researched.
Further the plans for the new school did not include a garbage room and the VSB advised us that they would be converting two of “their” parking stalls into a garbage room. This was proposed to be placed in our main vehicle entrance. This needed to be negotiated.
We could go on, however, highlight these several issues simply to give you an idea as to the magnitude of the issues the VSB brought to us along with their tight construction schedule. All these issues, and more, needed to be addressed. There are also many unrelated issues that do not even involve the Strata Corporation as to why construction has been delayed and even if any delay can be attributed to the VSB’s need to obtain the consent of the Strata Corporation, it was not, and never was, an issue of the Firenze trying to block construction but rather was an issue of the strata council doing their duty to protect, as much as possible, the investment and rights of our owners.
All these issues and many more needed to be negotiated and we, as a volunteer council, made ourselves available to the VSB at significant personal cost in order to deal with them.
The filing of the petition in Supreme Court was not a “last resort” as Mr. Meschino is quoted as stating in the article. The parties were still in negotiations when the VSB filed the petition seeking an injunction to, among other things, allow them onto our property to start construction of the foundation for the International Village School. The petition also demanded return of any money we had made renting out “their” parking stalls. We were disappointed that they would take this action as it would never be conducive to good neighbour relations. The result was we had to look past this and believe we are justified in feeling that it was as a result of significant flexibility and generosity on the part of this strata council that an agreement was finally reached.
As a result of the rush to build a newly configured school, with all the attendant structural and parking issues, our residents were put in a position of having to pay a significant amount in legal fees to protect their interests. This is not fair to our residents.
This council was looking forward to putting all this behind us and moving forward with a co-operative partnership with the VSB. This hope has been challenged but not dashed by the February 5th article in the Vancouver Courier.
We understand this is the first time the VSB has constructed a school adjacent to private residences. There are many lessons to be learned from this project. We sincerely hope that future developments will go much smoother as a result of the lessons learned from the construction of the International Village School.
This council is committed to doing whatever is necessary to move forward with this construction in order that our community will benefit from this much needed amenity.
Firenze Strata Council