This application for leave to appeal was considered by the Supreme Court of Canada.
The Lynches claimed that their property had been constructively expropriated by the City of St. John’s. The City wished to preserve the land in its natural state so as to maintain the purity of the water reserves in the nearby Windsor Lake watershed, and so it had prohibited the Lynches from developing the land. The Lynches applied for a Court declaration that they were entitled to compensation.
For the Court to find that the Lynches’ property had been constructively expropriated, the Lynches had to prove that the City had acquired a beneficial interest in the property and had removed all reasonable uses of the property. The Court began by considering the legislation that gave the City the authority to regulate the use of land, and it concluded that it was “unable to find any statutory authority” giving the City the power to expropriate the Lynches’ property. The Court therefore concluded that the control that the City was exercising was “regulatory in nature” and could not be characterized as expropriation. With that in mind, the Court held that he land had not been constructively expropriated.
The Court went on to note that the Lynches had failed to prove that the City had gained a beneficial interest by prohibiting development on the property and had also failed to prove that the City had removed all reasonable uses of the property. It therefore held that even if it was wrong in its view that the City had not expropriated the land because it did not have the legislated authority to do so, the Lynches’ application should still fail.
The Lynches appealed to the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal, which held that the Trial Judge had erred in finding that the City had not expropriated the land because it did not have the legislated authority to do so. The Court emphasized that the question was whether the City had constructively expropriated the land, not whether the relevant legislation gave it the power to do so. The Court held that the City had gained a beneficial interest by prohibiting the Lynches from developing their land, and it also held that the City had removed all reasonable uses of the land. The Court therefore held that the test for constructive expropriation had been met, and it declared that the Lynches were entitled to compensation.
When the City of St. John’s sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, leave to appeal was denied.
To read about this case in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador (Trial Division), go to Lynch v. St. John’s (City), 2015 CanLII 1204 (NL SCTD).
To read about this case in the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal, go to Lynch v. St. John’s (City), 2016 NLCA 35 (CanLII).