Neighbours roll out tractors to blockade farm

Neighbours block the entrance to a Finn Road farm Wednesday morning. - Kimi Hendess photo
Neighbours block the entrance to a Finn Road farm Wednesday morning.
— image credit: Kimi Hendess photo

Irate neighbours blockaded a Finn Road property Wednesday morning, saying they aren't leaving any time soon.

"We're not leaving until this toxic material is trucked out of here," said protester Ray Galawan in an interview with The Richmond Review. "We're here to stay."

Trucks began dumping demolition material on the farm property late December. The farm's new leaseholders are using the material to build a farm access road to service a new farm operation—potentially a tree nursery.

But Galawan, a retired farmer, and other neighbours have been carefully watching the loads come in. Last night, he said, trucks began dumping loads of asphalt, a material he said is "highly toxic" and will be placed on some of the best soil in the world.

"Enough's enough," he said. "Nobody else is stopping it. I've tried every avenue I can think of. We're getting no help, no answers, so I thought we have to do this to stop it ourselves."

Some neighbours have also complained to the Review about concrete "the size of bathtubs" being dumped.

Agriculture officials have been monitoring the site, said Thomas Loo, a compliance and enforcement officer with the Agricultural Land Commission. Loo said the larger pieces will serve as the road's base—and allow for easier road removal if the land use is changed.

Loo visited the site yesterday afternoon and said he didn't see anything that would be in contravention of farm laws. He said the commission has asked the proponents to remove rebar, and have suggested the proponents create a sorting area to remove any inappropriate materials coming in.

"I can understand the citizens are frustrated. If they want to stand there and peacefully protest, that's their right. Anything else it will be a civil matter between the operator and the group there," he said.

One of the leaseholders is Bill Jones, the longtime operator of a former nursery on Westminster Highway. He called the protest against his project "pretty vicious."

"What this is all about is some rather vicious people trying to make a point, because it's frankly a case of sour grapes," said Jones, declining to elaborate.

Jones, who was consulting his lawyer Wednesday morning, said he has approval from the Agricultural Land Commission for the road project.

"What we're doing is totally legal according to the Agricultural Land Commission who monitors the site routinely," he said. "Any farmer, any farmer, such as cranberry farmers, for instance, are entitled to build access roads without permission from anyone. The materials we use can be any number of things."

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