News

Haney home for squatters sealed

Coun. Al Hogarth leads District of Maple Ridge staff through a property on St. Anne Avenue, which he manages. The house has been repeatedly raided by police. - Phil Melnychuk/The News
Coun. Al Hogarth leads District of Maple Ridge staff through a property on St. Anne Avenue, which he manages. The house has been repeatedly raided by police.
— image credit: Phil Melnychuk/The News

Drug-dealing squatters were turfed out of a heritage house in downtown Maple Ridge after a pair of illegal suites were shut down Friday for the second time in a year.

District of Maple Ridge staff descended on 22309 St. Anne Ave. a week after Ridge Meadows RCMP raided the home, for the fourth time since June 2012. Maple Ridge Coun. Al Hogarth manages the house.

Armed with a crow bar, Hogarth led bylaw, fire department and building staff through the property for an inspection as a neighbour constructing a new home looked on.

“We had many headaches because of these people,” said Ken as he spread gravel across the driveway and lamented about items stolen from his site.

A power cord snaked across the alley to a pale yellow house next door that’s slated for demolition.

District staff were surprised to hear someone was still living inside since they were told last fall it was not occupied.

“The squatters keep coming back,” said Gerald Chiang, who owns the historic Turnock-Morse property, the yellow house next door and a third adjacent property, which are slated for a condo development.

Following a similar inspection last March, Chiang and the other owners spent more than $10,000 to board up the illegal suites and remove junk from 22309 St. Anne Ave. Chiang intends to preserve the heritage home as part of the condo development.

“People who are living here were supposed to be gone a long time ago,” said Chiang while standing outside the house.

“Based on the rules, we gave them notice, boarded it up but they still keep coming back and act like they are the owners.”

Chiang blames resources for drawing the homeless into the neighbourhood.

“I don’t think it’s anybody’s fault. The homeless people are a serious problem for the city,” he added.

“They can get a lot of resources to survive in this area so they keep coming back.”

Although Hogarth said he has not visited the heritage property since last March, Chiang believes the councillor is doing his best to manage it.

“City (district) council is frustrated with the situation drawing out and using police resources but I would say it’s nobody’s fault,” said Chiang, one of the investors behind a set of new condos at the corner of Lougheed Highway and 223rd Street.

“Al Hogarth has been trying to do his job and he has been doing very well. No one else would do better than this.”

The illegal suites at the back of the home will be torn down soon but district staff found several safety issues in the main portion of the heritage house, where a woman lives.

Assistant fire chief Mark Smitton said inspectors discovered problems with the electrical and heating systems as well as issues with egress or exits and excessive storage.

The tenant was relocated over the weekend while repairs were done and Smitton confirmed the problems have since been fixed.

John McKenzie, who lives a block away, remains frustrated that little has changed in his neighbourhood in the past decade.

It’s a recurring cycle of drug bust after drug bust as the derelict properties are not torn down quickly and turn into bases for the dealers and their clients.

“It is a very frustrating situation watching these drug dealers in my neighbourhood 24-seven and seemingly nothing’s being done, except for the bust at Al’s place,” he said.

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