By Gagandeep Ghuman
Published: Dec 7, 2013
Sohan Thandi has had enough.
For the last seven years, he has asked the district several times to stand by its words.
“If the district won’t deliver justice, I’m ready to go to court for it.” Sohan Thandi
Now, he is turning to the courts to send that reminder.
“If the district won’t deliver justice, I’m ready to go to court for it,” Thandi said.
This is an emblematic tale of how Squamish developed a reputation as an unwelcoming place to do business.
Thandi told his story while standing in its epicenter: A one-acre lot on Read Crescent in Garibaldi Estates.
With old cars, bob cats, and other garbage strewn around, the lot looks like a pus-filled wound on the glowy skin of Garibaldi Estates.
But it wasn’t supposed to look this dystopic.
In 2007, Thandi went to the district and asked whether he would be able to subdivide a lot he was going to purchase in Garibaldi Estates.
The price, $700,000, seemed quite high, but given the central location, Thandi was confident he’d be able to sell the two homes he planned to build there.
The district green lighted the project, saying the lot can be subdivided.
This is what a district planner wrote to Thandi in February 2007:
“Based on the information you have provided to me, it appears that the land is zoned RS-1 and clear of any VLA encumbrances.”
Drawing a loan against his other properties, Thandi purchased the lot at a high 8 per cent rate of interest.
Taking the planning department advice, he also hired an engineer and a surveyor to fulfill other application requirements.
He spent $5,000 on a surveyor, and deposited $26,000 for sewer, water and other subdivision charges with the district.
A few months later, he received the cheque back. The district had now decided his lot could not be subdivided.
As they reviewed his application, the district found a sliver of land had already been taken out of his lot by the previous owner in the 1980s.
That meant the lot could not be subdivided under the VLA subdivision bylaw.
It might have been a minor issue, but it was the law and they laid it out for Thandi.
Suddenly, Thandi’s plans were upended, unless the council could review it.
For the last five years, Thandi has been running from pillar to post, asking councillors to amend the bylaw as he was penalised for no fault of his.
“If they had told me when I first went to them, I’d have never bought the land,” he said.
Meanwhile, Thandi said he has seen several other lots in the neighbourhood subdivided to accommodate more homes.
In September, DOS planners admitted the bylaw had been applied inconsistently in the past.
The planners said they will soon bring the bylaw to review before council.
Thandi said it’s high time the district admits its mistake and deliver justice.
“If they don’t hear my voice now, I’ll take the district to court over this,” he said.