The Struggle So Far
Compassion Farm is a small (2.5) acre operation located in beautiful Lantzville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island. Begun on nothing but bare rock leftover from the previous owner's selling of the topsoil, the farm now produces a variety of organic produce which is sold in Nanaimo at the Beben Park Farmer's Market. This is Dirk and Nicole's primary source of income; $3/hour or $20,000 a year. The following is an in-progress timeline of events concerning Lantzville and urban agriculture on Compassion Farm: Scroll to the bottom for the latest! Last update: MAY 1st 2012
- On September 24th, 2010 Compassion Farm was served an order to move manure from the side of Fernmar Road and the property itself fter a complaint was made and the farm was found to be in violation of by-law 1073, the Nanaimo Unsightly Premises ByLaw. This order stemmed from a complaint by their neighbour, a man who has allegedly disturbed farming activities with harassment towards both Dirk and Nicole on many occasions.
- November 2nd 2010 Compassion farm was served a cease and desist farming order due to by-law 60. This C&D was extended by 180 days on November 22nd. It was later revealed that Lantzville has no obligation to enforce by-laws, even if the council is aware of an infraction. It appears that Compassion Farm is being singled out.
- By the end of November (14-17) it was clear from emails with the Mayor that no solution would be swiftly forthcoming though promises were made to revisit the by-law in question in the new year and amend it. These emails can be found under the Documentation section of the site. Dirk and Nicole felt that the issue was going to be resolved and no further legal action would be needed.
- November 22: At the Council meeting, council was asked to cease action against Compassion Farm pending revision of bylaw 60. Council, in camera, extended the cease and desist grace period to 180 days.
- November 25: District of Lantzville's Chief Administrative Officer, Tylwa Graff, and Bylaw Enforcement Officer meet with Becker to advocate for compliance or a TUP (temporary use permit).
- Council reconvened in January and said they have heard the people of Lantzville 'loud and clear', and would amend the by-law but need time to do research and investigate what other cities have done.
- During February there are no public meetings or discussion by Council on the urban agriculture issue.
- April 6, 2011 a registered letter to Becker came with a reminder of the end of the Cease and Desist extension coming, advice to apply for a TUP (temporary use permit) and advised of the possibility of further legal action.
On April 11, a new bylaw with an amalgam of other Island bylaw wordings was suddenly presented and given first reading.
- Two public information meetings were held on April 27 and 30, leaving many questions unanswered.
- May 9-The residents group, Friends of Urban Agriculture in Lantzville (FUAL) asked Council to appoint a committee for deeper community consultation. Council agreed to a committee, then sat in Council public meeting and made substantial alterations to the by-law again.
- May 30: DoL Council Meeting decides to form the urban agriculture committee and discusses proposed bylaw changes in detail, ignoring community input from the two previous public information meetings.
- June 8-Compassion Farm is served noticed that the city of Lantzville will be taking further legal action against the farm, despite the process of a committee and amendments to the by-law in question being proposed. A Victoria-based lawfirm is hired by Lantzville Council. Legal defense for Compassion Farm could cost anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000, with the Victoria firm being paid for with taxpayer dollars.
Staff reported to the June 13 meeting in a new document. Despite advice from the planner that more research was needed, a council majority of four moved second reading of the proposed bylaw (2005, 60.23). At this meeting the urban garden committee was given the go ahead and it was decided that the committee would consist of 2 members from council and five members from the community, though who would be selected and how was not apparent at that time.
- July 6: CAO called Becker to ban Compassion Farm from Minetown Days. The ban was requested in writing.
- July 14: DoL letter to trucking companies advising them that the disposal of yard waste is not permitted in Lantzville.
- July 19: DoL letter about banning from Minetown Days hand-delivered; it took 13 days and 3 phone calls to aquire it).
- Another letter was recieved, containing 3 compliance issues-no transportation of compostable materials, no sales except that of fruits and vegetables, and to clear 2 meters around the property and reduce the grade of the property down to the level of adjacent properties. It also contained the following suggestions: apply for the TUP, apply for re-zoning, apply to the ALC for inclusion into the Agricultural Land Reserve.
- July 22: Becker emailed CAO to advise reciept of letters on July 19 and would respond the following week.
- July 25: Advisory Committee to Consider the Issue of Urban Agriculture and Urban Food Gardens was struck in camera. The people appointed to the committee (a 5 to 2 split):
Jim Brash (Becker/Shaw's angry neighbour)
Councillor Warren Griffey (the councillor who wrote in the newspaper that he was "horrified" to watch manure being unloaded).
Councillor Doug Parkhurst (the councillor who filed the original "unsightly premises" complaint against Becker/Shaw and continued to vote on these matters despite being in a conflict of interest)
David Elgie (6 month resident of Lantzville and at first committee meeting asked, "where is upper Lantzville?", he missed the first meeting and demonstrated that he had not briefed himself prior to the meeting, consequently much time was wasted going over the previous meeting for his benefit)
John Halliwell (stood up at the TUP public hearing to say the mayor is doing a good job)
Angela Giuriato (a landscape designer)
Andrew Mostad (spokesperson for Friends of Urban Agriculture in Lantzville).
Note that several "experts" applied who were not appointed - ie: agrologist, past organic farmers, current farmers.
- July 26: Email from CAO to Becker demanding reply to their July 19 letter by July 27, 4pm.
- July 29: VIHA (Vancouver Island Health Authority) surprise visits Compassion Farm stating they had recieved a complaint.
- August 3: VIHA officer returns for water samples from which no problems were found.
- August 5 2011-From the Nanaimo News Bulletin: Angst grows over urban garden committee selections
- August 9-Dirk and Nicole retain legal counsel
- August 15-The first meeting of the Urban Garden Committee is held with 2 members not showing; David Elgie and Coun. Doug Parkhurst, but 20 members of the community were in attendance. Unease over the composition of the committee is still an issue. The Committee only has until mid-September to come up with suggestions for the urban by-law. In the meantime, Council is preparing to go to court against Compassion Farm despite the outcry against this action by its citizens.
- August 25: Ministry of the Environment email Becker stating they have recieved a complaint.
- August 29: M.O.E emails again, and Compassion Farm's legal council sends an email to Mayor and Council.
- August 30th: The webmaster is contacted by Ron Brash, son of neighbour Jim, to discuss alleged errors in the facts on this website. After a lengthy email exchange, nothing is resolved.
- September 6: Becker recieves a letter from the DoL lawyer restating their position.
- September 9: Compassion Farm's lawyer responds to DoL's letter.
- September 13: M.O.E. emails Becker explaining he had talked with the VIHA Aug. 30 and stated that "their analyses did not indicate that there was currently any excursions from Canadian guidelines for drinking Water Quality. Nor did she have any concerns of significant off-site health impacts attributable to the activities she observed."
- September 30th: VIHA visited Compassion Farm again due to a complaint and found nothing out of the ordinary.
- October 4: Special Council Meeting for facilitator of Urban Gardens Advisory Committee to present their suggestions to council. Dirk addressed the bias of having at least three people appointed to the committee who are on record for being "against us". The public in attendance discovered the Mayor and CAO had already booked hall and newspaper advertising for the bylaw's public hearing on October 11th, just one week away.
- October 7: It is found that the haste of the public hearing is against provincial rules and the meeting cannot be held on the 11th. Instead, Council will meet on the 11th to decide a time for the public hearing.
October 20, 2011: VIHA called acting on a complaint as to whether or not Dirk's truck is ‘foodsafe’ for bringing food to the farmers’ market.
October 24: Lantzville’s Urban Food Garden Bylaw Public Hearing. About 200 people attended with approximately 60 speakers. 85% or better were against the by-law in its current form.
- October 25, 2011: M.O.E. office called Becker, this time citing they have been directed by the Minister of Environment to inspect the property. Set date for 28th.
October 27, 2011: M.O.E. office called Becker to change the scheduled time. Also informed Becker that they will also take water samples (despite VIHA already having done so).
Special council meeting to decide if Council will approve 3rd readingof the bylaw. They decided that based on all the feedback at the public hearing, that the community was misinformed. They decided they would not pass the bylaw, but would work on informing the public.
October 28, 2011 Property visit by M.O.E. for two hours. Nothing of any concern was found.
October 31, 2011: Phone message from M.O.F. (Ministry of Agriculture) saying they had been contacted by the District of Lantzville with "concerns" and would like to book a time to visit.
November 1, 2011 M.O.A. visited our property for 2 hours and found nothing of concern.
November 19th: 3 of the 4 on council who were publicly against Compassion Farm (the mayor and 2 councilors) were removed by the people of Lantzville in the municipal election.
- January 23, 2012 - Becker and Shaw met with Lantzville's new mayor and the CAO. The mayor asked if they would be willing to cease bringing uncomposted manure onto their property and they said, “Absolutely.” The following day they also signed a written agreement to that effect.
March 29th - The process is stalled at a cease fire as far as legal action goes and council is still deliberating as what they are going to do with the bylaw.
April 2, 2012 (a.m.) The District CAO emailed to inform Becker/Shaw that Council wishes to "re-inspect" their property.
April 2, 2012 (p.m.) At that evening's Council meeting, Councillor Denise Haime flashed photos to audience of Becker preparing orchard (photos taken just three days prior by Brash).
A friend who has donated grass clippings for 10 years shared a letter received from the RDN, threatening legal action if he continues to bring grass clippings to Compassion Farm.