This case was heard in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador (Trial Division).
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 finding 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.
To read about later decisions related to this case, go to Lynch v. St. John’s (City), 2016 NLCA 35 (CanLII) and City of St. John’s v. Willis Lynch, et al., 2017 CanLII 4184 (SCC).