Operator of pot dispensary loses bid to appeal 500 bylaw tickets

The Langley operator of a former marijuana dispensary has lost his appeal of hundreds of bylaw tickets that resulted in about $270,000 in fines.

Giovanni Kyle Romegioli, who ran the cannabis dispensary known as “Starbuds Aldergrove,” encountered numerous problems after the business was opened in May 2017.

Following visits to the business, conversations with staff at the dispensary and written warnings, officials at the Township of Langley issued more than 500 bylaw infraction notices against the business.

The infractions related to zoning bylaws, building bylaws, highway bylaws and licensing bylaws.

They concerned the unlicensed operation of the cannabis business from the property on Fraser Highway, renovations done to the property, and the erection of a sign outside the premises.

After its lease was terminated, Starbuds Aldergrove closed on Nov. 27, 2017.

Romegioli disputed the bylaw tickets, but earlier this year, an adjudicator upheld all of the infractions. The fines and related costs amounted to about $270,000.

Langley began enforcement proceedings by obtaining a judgment against Romegioli and registering the judgment on the title against his home.

Romegioli responded in May by applying to the B.C. Supreme Court to judicially review the decision of the bylaw adjudicator that upheld the tickets.

He asked the court to set aside the decision and to cancel the infraction notices on the grounds that the decision was incorrect or unreasonable. He also claimed that there were some procedural fairness issues.

Inspection notes and reports by Langley officials described Romegioli as the “owner” of Starbuds Aldergrove and documented that he accepted the bylaw infraction notices that were given to him.

Romegioli, who was the sole director and shareholder of the numbered company that leased the property from Yard Investment Inc., filed an affidavit saying that he had told the bylaw adjudicator that he was neither the owner nor the operator of the dispensary.

He claimed he was only on the lease as the “covenantor” to Yard.

But a Langley official said in an affidavit that Romegioli held himself out to Langley staff as both the owner and operator of Starbuds Aldergrove.

In her ruling in the case, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Nitya Iyer said that the applicable law required that the adjudicator only determine whether Romegioli was responsible for the bylaw infractions.

“Leaving aside the lease entirely, there was evidence that Mr. Romegioli was the sole shareholder of the company, he was on the premises, represented himself as being in charge, and accepted bylaw infraction notices,” said the judge.

“The adjudicator’s decision to uphold the bylaw notices therefore fell within the range of acceptable outcomes defensible in light of the facts and the law.”

The judge concluded that the adjudicator’s decision was reasonable.

Romegioli claimed that the adjudication process was procedurally unfair, but the judge also rejected those arguments.

“Mr. Romegioli cited no authority to support his claim of procedural unfairness and I can find none,” said the judge.

Romegioli and his lawyer could not be reached for comment.

kfraser@postmedia.com

twitter.com/keithrfraser

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