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Daphne Bramham: Vancouver developer uses disabled residents as pawns

What could be more despicable than this? But Onni Group is doing just that in a financial dispute with the city. And that’s why the company is now being sued.

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It’s hard to imagine an act as despicable as a realtor holding 44 severely disabled people hostage, but the Onni Group has been in a financial war with the city since July.

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Just one day before residents — people with spinal cord injuries, acquired brain injuries and people on ventilators — began moving into Onni’s 3,005-unit Cambie Gardens purpose-built home, the Decotis family-owned Vancouver The based development company has denied this. Unlock the door.

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It’s heartbreaking for anyone desperate to move into their dream home, but devastating for residents like Eric Wegiel, whose quality of life is already tragically limited.

Wegiel has lived at the George Pearson Center near Langara Golf Course for 16 years. He has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). He is on a ventilator and has both a breathing and feeding tube.

“I want to cry right now. This is really low for people to do that.

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After Vezier was told in July that he wouldn’t move into an air-conditioned, one-bedroom, garden-level suite with a patio, Cayer said he saw “a dim light on his face.” .

The 70-year-old George Pearson Center was built as a tuberculosis hospital. This dark, gloomy and dilapidated hospital is managed by Vancouver Coastal Health and is home to his 114 people who require the highest standards of care.

The dispute that halted their move plans is between Onni and the City of Vancouver over energy service contracts.

In an emailed response to a question, the city said the agreement “outlines the supply of heat and hot water to city-owned units when the project is completed.”

The city granted Onni a occupancy permit on June 3. The permit will allow Onni (Vancouver Coastal Health) access to the unit at any time, according to the city.

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Unnie refused.

On Monday, Vancouver Coastal filed a civil suit in the BC Supreme Court, naming Onni Pearson Dogwood Development Limited Partnership and Onni Pearson Dogwood Holding Corp.

It claims that the main, if not the only, reason for the delay is that developers are “seeking power in a commercial dispute”.It seeks both general and special damages.

In an interview, Vancouver Coastal Vice President Bob Chapman said health officials felt they had no choice but to sue.

Onni told Vancouver Coastal Health in May that the unit would be available for occupancy by June, according to court filings. On that basis, health officials have asked her provider, Connect Partners, to contract services for her 44 people who will soon move into Camby Gardens for $675,000 a month, starting her April 1st. I notified you.

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It also informed Pearson employees that it will redeploy staff beginning in September. As such, the facility may be understaffed starting next week as the redeployment cannot be reversed.

Duncan Wlodarczak, chief of staff at Onni Group, wrote in an email that Onni’s “first priority” is to finalize the deal and get residents ready to move in.

The company “proactively reached out earlier this year to expedite this process,” and added, “We understand the urgent need for residents to move in, so we are addressing this matter with the utmost urgency.” I have responded with

On the other hand, living conditions for Pearson residents are terrible.

During a recent heat wave, Wegiel was in the throes of heat stroke when his sister, a paramedic, arrived. She wrapped him in a wet towel to cool her down, and her advocate brought air conditioners and fans a few days later.

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By then, Wegiel should be living in an air-conditioned one-bedroom suite with access to a patio where his family plans to place lawn furniture and plants.

Instead, he and 43 others are caught in the middle of a messy and complicated public-private partnership, and players in a cautionary tale about the risks involved.

It dates back to 2013, when the BC liberal government began selling a billion-dollar public land sale. Between 2005 and 2015, Onni donated her $581,430 to the party and purchased his 25-acre land on Cambie and her 57th. This land was considered the “diamond” of the government’s treasure trove.

Over the past four years, the company’s owners, the de Cotiis family, have also been Mayor Kennedy Stewart’s top donors, giving a total of just under $24,500.

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Onni’s $302 million deal includes a low-interest loan of 2.61%, with a final payment of $44.5 million not required until early next year. Within five years of his purchase, the property’s valuation jumped to his $842 million.

In a subsequent complex transaction aimed at deinstitutionalizing residents and integrating them into the community, Vancouver Coastal Health acquired a “beneficiary interest” in the current George Pearson Center and Dogwood Lodge grounds in 2016 to Onni. Transferred.

Coincidentally, the total cost of that purchase was also $320 million, and as part of the deal, Vancouver Coastal will buy back 114 “Pearson Exchange Units” in two tier-titled towers.

Debate over how taxpayers may or may not benefit from these deals can wait for another day.

They have already paid an excruciating price as pawns and are used shamelessly as Onni tries to extract concessions from the city and its politicians.

dbramham@postmedia.com

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Daphne Bramham: Vancouver developer uses disabled residents as pawns

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