Laurentian University ends high-profile property fight with Sudbury couple for $20K
Newly released court documents show that a property dispute at Laurentian University was settled for $20,000 – an amount less than LU had been offered in the past for the land.
The agreement puts an end to the very public spat over the two-bedroom, two-bathroom home located next to the university on South Bay Road.
James Crispo and Dominique Ansell bought the house in 2016. Later, they found out part of the land (including a pool shed and part of their septic tank) encroached on LU’s property.
Repeated attempts to buy the land from LU failed, with the university insisting the couple remove the encroachments.
"The reasons were quite unclear, which (is) quite frustrating to us," Crispo told CTV News in 2017.
"They just said they don't propose resolving encroachments in this manner. However, that's all we got. It wasn't a matter of cost or terms. It was just a flat out no."
That led the couple to wage a very public campaign to try and force the university to settle. They launched a now-discontinued website to press their case, offered $25,000 to bail out the campus radio station CKLU if Laurentian sold them the land, and at one point put the house up for sale for $9 million.
But it wasn’t the public lobbying that ended the matter: it was Laurentian’s declaration of insolvency in February 2021.
As part of the process under the Canadian Companies’ Arrangement Act, LU needed to settle all legal disputes to emerge from insolvency.
That meant the battle with their neighbours over the property had to be settled.
“In 2018, the university commenced an action against the neighbours seeking a declaration that the neighbours have no title, right or interest in the university property,” the court transcript said.
“On July 11, 2022, LU and the neighbours entered into a settlement agreement to resolve outstanding issues.”
The deal needed approval from the court, as well as the Ministry of Colleges and Universities, LU’s primary lender for the CCAA proceedings.
Under the act, LU could get approval for divesting the land as long as it received “just compensation for the land,” the transcript said.
In the end, Ontario Superior Court Chief Justice G.B. Morawetz ruled that no one opposed the settlement and that it was better than the alternatives.
“LU is not aware of any opposition to the requested vesting order and no party has raised concern that if the vesting order is granted it would be inconsistent with planning principles,” Morawetz wrote, in a decision dated Jan. 25.
“In addition, in the absence of a vesting order being granted, LU and the neighbours would need to either (i) negotiate a new settlement or (ii) continue litigating the action. In either event, costs would continue to be incurred and the issues as between LU and the neighbours will persist.”
Read the full decision here.
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