Monday, November 7, 2011

Lantzville Decides Not to Jail Local Man

Photo courtesy: © Living-On-Purpose-Lynn

This past summer I told you about BC farmer Dirk Becker's fight with the local elected government that could have ended with a six-month jail sentence. His crime? Becker and his partner Nicole Shaw were growing food for sale on their 2.5 acre residentially-zoned semi-rural lot in the town of Lantzville on Vancouver Island. What seems to be a dispute started by one disgruntled neighbour that was then taken up by the town mayor and some members of city council was ended on election day.

Photo courtesy: Dirk Becker via TreeHugger

Once he had transformed the land and planted a few crops, he decided he could sell some of his extra produce to his neighbours. It would put a few dollars "walkabout money" in his jean's pocket. Becker and Shaw received one complaint from one neighbour who felt their manure and/or compost was offensive; as if the previous garbage, etc. wasn't. Give me organic produce any day over barren junk yards. It seems that although there are horses and cattle being kept in the same vicinity, the organic farm (1 entire acre) was too rural for the town's by-laws. It quickly became an issue that divided the town; however....

This past November citizens in Lantzville voted out the incumbent mayor Colin Haime, in part because of the issue surrounding Becker and Shaw. In his closing written address as mayor Haime had the following to say about the farmers' supporters:
You supported an individual who thumbed his nose up at the bylaws of the community and its residents including his neighbour. You have set the precedent whereby laws are now set by conflict. The loudest one wins. At the same time you abandoned and ridiculed law abiding citizens who were only interested in the piece (sic) and enjoyment of their own property. You want the right to do as you please but you deny the rights of others the same thing.

The urban farming issue wasn't the only contentious issue during the election but newly elected mayor Jack de Jong did use it as leverage to convince people to vote for him. De Jong said his biggest priority is to secure a reliable source of water for the community and that the urban farming issue was distracting city council from achieving that goal.

Becker is happy that the pressure is now off of him and says:
Our new mayor shows all the hallmarks of being warm, friendly, reasonable, collaborative and big picture oriented.
My sense is that he wants to move on and not waste any more of our citizens money and time in the form of legal proceedings and also staff time.

There is no guarantee that Becker and Shaw won't run into trouble with local bylaws since none have been changed thus far, but until then:
Nicole and I will continue farming for a living as we have for over 6 of the 12 years we have worked this land and selling at the farmers market we started. If the district of Lantzville offers us 'spot zoning' or anything that would be a positive contribution to our community and reduce the degree our one neighbor can make council's lives difficult we are totally open to that.



joe dupont said...

I am sympathetic to most people who want to grow edibles. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. I live in Towanda, Pa and want to homestead my junk land in Texas. What part of Canada are you from. I"ve spent some time an Manitoulin Island. A real neat place.

Pippa said...

Thanks for the comment, Joe. I live in Surrey, BC not far from Vancouver, BC.