Posts:1,230 Threads:252 Joined:Feb 2011
Quote:On Friday, June 10th, a process server arrived at our door with a letter. It stated that our Lantzville Council was proceeding with legal actionâ€”taking us to court to shut down our â€œurbanâ€ farm which is located in a semi-rural area, on a dead end road.
This, after at least nine months of â€œin cameraâ€ meetings by council, is how they are spending our tax dollars.
Last year, my spouse, Dirk Becker, and I, responded to a â€œcease all agricultural activityâ€ letter by sharing information and photographs with council as to how we are transforming our property from essentially a gravel pit (created by the previous owner who strip-mined, removing soil, sand and gravel, lowering the level of the property three to five feet) to a lush oasis of life (see article: http://www.synergymag.ca/a-lantzville-co...-grow-food). We have received certification from the Canadian Wildlife Federation for creating â€œBackyard Habitatâ€ for wildlife. We also shared with council information about what we do, how we do it, along with links and videos on â€œurban farmingâ€, the â€œurban farming movementâ€ and the â€œlocal food movementâ€.
For the benefit of readers, this is a fast-growing movement all over the world. All â€œurban farmingâ€ is done in â€œresidentially zonedâ€ areas. Hence the term: â€œurbanâ€ farming. Municipalities across North America are responding to this movement by changing bylaws to support local foodâ€”to allow the growing of food as a home based business. To feed one person for a whole year, it takes about two acres of land. On Vancouver Island, we only grow 5% of the food we eat and there are only two days of fresh food supply in the grocery stores. So it behooves us to support and encourage the growing of local food.
As with most societal change, â€œthe peopleâ€ leadâ€¦ and then it takes time for bureaucrats to follow and change the laws. How else would women have won the right in 1929 to be declared as â€œpersonsâ€ (rather than as property) and have the right to vote? And how else would Rosa Parks and the civil rights movement have changed the laws that segregated â€œblacksâ€ from â€œwhitesâ€? The people took action first.
So for those who get stuck and insist that â€œthe lawâ€™s the lawâ€: remember, laws are made and changed every day in Canada. Unfortunately nowadays, more often than not, it is large companies who lobby the government to change laws that benefit said companies. It is time for the people to insist on laws that are good for the people and our planet.
In the media, Mayor Colin Haime and the Lantzville Administrator, Twyla Graff, have stated that they â€œhave no choice but to pursue litigationâ€. This is untrue. We and others have spoken to council members in numerous communities on Vancouver Island, as well as lawyers specializing in property law, all of whom concur, â€œCouncil members have an obligation to respond to complaints; but they are not obligated to actually enforce bylaws.â€
A short tour in places like Lantzville or Nanaimo will easily reveal hundreds of bylaw infractions, many of which are worthy of complaints and prosecution. With law enforcement, such as being pulled over by a police officer, officials and organizations have a high degree of discretion available to them. Just think if a given jurisdiction came down on all â€œillegalâ€ structures, basement suites, and speeders. Our courts would be full. As our world is changing rapidly, it seems that we all have a responsibility to move from talking about â€œsustainabilityâ€ to encouraging it, supporting it and moving in that direction in every manner possible.
Only one council member, Rod Negrave has come by to see what we do here. We got nowhere in email exchanges with our Mayor. On November 17th, 2010, I closed an email ccâ€™d to Lantzville Council and RDN directors with: â€œAll Councillors and RDN Directors are welcome to call, email or make an appointment to visit in order to research and learn more about this issue and we will continue to share information and co-operate with the goal of creating solutions that are for the betterment of all of us.â€
We naively thought at the time that this would be an open, collaborative process. The rest of council did not take us up on our offer. To this day, Councillor Negrave is still the only one who has made the effort to see for himself what we do. However, we continued to see the mayor plus several councillors visit our angry neighbour. Is it just me, or does this seem lacking in fairness and objectivity?
When Mayor Haime was asked by a resident, through his personal blog, why he hadnâ€™t visited our place, part of his reply was â€œI have not visited Compassion Farm because what he is doing is not hard to understand. A personal visit is not needed.â€ And that he finds â€œit interesting that those that support Compassion Farm do not question Rod Negrave or Joe Bratkowski why they have not visited the neighbour who is plagued with living beside Compassion Farm. The smell is offensive, there is concern about run off into their well from the fresh (uncomposted) manure spread amongst the plants, the flys (sic) on their house are disturbing plus the number of local landscapers using it as a dump site to save themselves some money are streaming down the road on a regular basis.â€
Does this sound like a collaborative, unbiased public servant? People driving slowly by our home on a daily basis (which is on a dead end road) to see what all the commotion is about, have stopped for a tour and expressed genuine surprise that the place is tidy and doesnâ€™t â€œstink of manureâ€.
The mission and values of council, as listed on the District of Lantzville website, are:
â€œAct in a professional manner at all times, having respect for each other, the roles of council and staff, the decision making process, opinions of all of our constituents, and carry out adequate research and thoughtfully consider the issues before us, while serving and representing all of our community.â€
The majority of this council has disregarded the hundreds of letters that have been written to them (one councillor implied at a council meeting that they disregarded letters they considered â€œunfriendlyâ€). They have also disregarded the community members who attended two open houses/workshops to discuss urban agriculture. At the following council meeting, rather than directing staff to use the facilitatorâ€™s report to adjust the draft bylaw, Council went through the bylaw, step-by-step, giving their own opinions as to what changes to make. While Councillors Bratowski and Negrave insisted that Councilâ€™s job was to direct staff, not to micro-manage, Councillor Denise Haime stated that in order to direct staff they needed to go through the bylaw right then and there (it was the longest council meeting Iâ€™ve ever attended).
In addition, Council disregarded the over 200 people who attended at public hearing. All but two of the speakers spoke against linking Temporary Use Permits (T.U.P.) to agriculture. Shortly thereafter, we received a registered letter from the District of Lantzville inviting us to apply for a T.U.P.
We turned down the invitation for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it was against the wishes of the people and Council decided to disregard the people. Secondly, we received legal advice not to apply for a T.U.P. Other reasons include that we have no idea what the terms and conditions would be, we would have to pay $1,150.00 (our income is $20,000 per year), and a T.U.P. can be revoked at any time without notice.
Further to this, rather than talking with us, visiting our property, or sharing with us what the actual problem is, the majority of council has decided to take the heavy-handed approach to a bylaw infractionâ€”a bylaw that is in the midst of being changed (supposedly to support growing food as a homebased business). Instead, they commence legal action with taxpayer money.
Another resident asked the Mayor on his blog: â€œIf Bylaw 60 is â€˜under reviewâ€™ with a committee to be considering all the feedback re: the amendments, why would a legal letter be issued to cease activity with regards to an â€˜urban gardenâ€™?â€...
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