A property dispute dating back to the early 1990s could finally be nearing a resolution after a 10-day civil trial.
Court heard closing arguments centred around trespassing and property rights concerning the Creek Run Mobile Home Park near Lake Country.
At the heart of the matter is a deal allegedly struck by Herbert Simpson and Braunfel Construction Company in the early ’90s, which allowed the developer to build a mobile home park.
However, court heard that the property was on Okanagan Indian Band land, and the construction company failed to secure the proper headlease, as required under the Indian Act.
Simpson died, and the property was left to his daughters, plaintiffs Maureen Ziprick and Leona Simpson.
During closing arguments, their lawyers argued that the lands of the Simpson family have been wrongfully occupied for 26 years.
Court also heard that Braunfel Construction frequently failed to pay rent.
“It’s a situation of David and Goliath,” Chrystie Stewart, the plaintiff’s lawyer, said.
“We have a developer that is quite business-savvy, and we have some landowners that are not as sophisticated in the ways of business, and they certainly don’t have the resources available to them that the developer has had.”
Gordon DeFehr now owns shares in Braunfel Construction and defended the company in court.
He said he was repeatedly given assurances that the company would be given the required headlease.
Defehr also pointed out that Braunfel had made substantial investments and repairs to the property.
However, during closing arguments, Justice Gary Weatherill interrupted DeFehr several times, clarifying that his company didn’t have the required headlease and asking what legal right he had to be there.
Weatherill also said that Braunfel had previously been told by a court decision to stop development.
The judge ultimately reserved his decision.
“They’ve sacrificed on many different levels. We’re hoping for a positive result for them.”
“It’s just such a very simple case: if you could imagine that you’re going to sell your house to somebody, but you don’t actually sell the house, and instead they move in anyways without actually paying for it,” Stewart said.
“And conversely, maybe there were promises that were made on either side, but ultimately that title didn’t convey, and that’s where we’re expecting the rule of law to prevail.”
The property in question is now in receivership.
Stewart said that if the judge rules in the plaintiff’s favour, there will be no immediate changes to the tenancies of the 80 units that are still being rented out at the mobile home park.
DeFehr declined an on-camera interview. In a statement, he said that he’s not at liberty to make any comments concerning the case, except to say that he’s looking forward to a conclusion to the 27-year-long legal battle.