By Pat Grubb
An illegal land clearing, a stop work order and an astronomic run up in the sales price has Tsawwassen residents concerned about the historic Guichon Farm in Beach Grove – is it greenhouses or residential housing that developers are after?
A group called the Concerned Citizens of Delta South (CCDS) have banded together following unpermitted land clearing on the historic Guichon Farm located at 5781 8th Avenue which is located immediately adjacent to the Forest by the Sea subdivision and Century Group’s Southlands development at the bottom of the 56st hill leading up to Point Roberts. Kelsey Spring, Richard Schroeder and other CCDS members sounded the alarm at the Point Roberts Taxpayer Association’s regular meeting on November 14.
In mid-June, an excavator removed the underbrush and deposited soil on the 45-acre site. “When this thing is snorting and growling in your back yard, people get alarmed,” said Spring. The Corporation of Delta slapped a stop work order on the property, due to the owner’s failure to get a soil deposit permit in contravention of bylaw 7221.
CCDS organizers have since been organizing to prevent development of the property which is zoned agriculture. The land is not part of the provincial Agricultural Land Reserve which has significant protective value in reducing the threat of residential development on farmlands. An ALR designation does not prohibit industrial greenhouse operations and the Corporation of Delta has little say on what occurs on ALR land, as opposed to Delta lands zoned agriculture.
Spring told the group that CCDS had circulated petitions and instituted an online poll to raise attention to the threat posed by development efforts. Over 1,300 individuals had signed the petition calling for the land to be preserved as open air, soil-based farm land. He said the owner of the land had been vague in what his plans were for the property, indicating at one point the clearing and soil deposit was for the “purposes of constructing industrial greenhouses.”
Spring presented slides that showed light pollution from greenhouses would blanket almost all of Point Roberts during nights with low cloud ceilings.
In fact, it is not clear what the owner’s eventual intentions might be given recent financial moves on the property which has an assessed value as farmland of $103,000. In 2003, the property sold for $3.2 million. In 2011, it was sold again for $6 million and again in October 2016, it sold for $12.5 million. In June, it was listed for sale at $23.88 million, a price, Spring said, that precluded its economic viability even if it were to be used for industrial production of cannabis which is currently prohibited by Canadian federal law.
“We believe growing houses is the end game,” Spring said, adding, “At the end of the day, we will have an over capacity of cannabis production. Right now, it’s a gold rush.”
A developer hoping to build houses on the land will have to be a long-term thinker, according to Spring. “I don’t think you will be able to get housing on the land without going through an extensive public process. The last time, it took 30 years to get approval,” he said, referring to the Southlands project.
In the meantime, CCDS is taking no chances. They are calling for the land to be placed in the ALR and to have a moratorium on additional licenses for cannabis cultivation. Their overall goal is to keep the land in open air, soil-based agricultural production. They are asking Point Roberts residents to make their opinions known by going to ccods.ca and click the online survey button.