City of Stratford open to settling with former Cooper site owner but not at a number 'that's far beyond' expectations

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A city official says the content of a settlement offer from former Cooper Block owner Lawrence Ryan for more than $35 million is “perplexing.”

In an offer issued Wednesday, Ryan proposed the city accept that the market value of the 4.6 hectares (11.4 acres) of land it formally expropriated from him in 2009 is $21.6 million. Ryan, also known as 135 due to his numbered Ontario company, asked the city to agree to pay another $15.3 million in statutory interests – six per cent per year since Oct. 16, 2006, as per section 33 of the Expropriation Act – and compensation for damages, losses and other expenses.

But Stratford CAO Rob Horne said they’re not sure Ryan’s solicitor is even aware of the offer.

“We’ve asked for clarification from 135’s legal counsel, because… the content is really perplexing to us, but we haven’t heard back from them,” he said late Thursday afternoon.

Horne added the offer came shortly after a court awarded costs to the city. In April, a London divisional court denied Ryan’s appeal of an October 2016 Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) ruling that dismissed a list of claims made by his lawyers. In a decision issued Tuesday on costs, the same judge ordered 135 pay $25,000 to the city in relation to the appeal.

But the issue of the market value of the property is one that still has not been determined by the OMB in the protracted legal war. The city offered $5 million for the site in 2008, but Ryan has long suggested that fair market value is closer to $25 million.

“While the City of Stratford would like to make a full and final settlement, we’re not going to settle at a value that’s far beyond the expectations of what a tribunal – which is a court or the Ontario Municipal Board – would be expected to make,” Horne said. “And all of that to the detriment of the city’s taxpayers.”

Horne said he’s not able to comment further due to ongoing litigation.

“It’s been a complex legal proceeding,” he said.

Ryan said studies and reports commissioned by the city on the potential of the site have proven him right, which is why he’s approaching the city once again with an offer instead of waiting for a ruling from the Environment and Land Tribunals Ontario, the former OMB. The offer, sent to members of council along with a request to speak to council at its June 25 meeting, will expire on July 15 of this year. If the city agrees to the offer, it would have to pay the money to Ryan’s company by Aug. 31, 2018.

Ryan added he would be willing to negotiate and would like to resolve this matter before a new council is elected.

-with files from Jonathan Juha



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