A battle has been unfolding on a quiet rural street in Saanich. On one side, the people who have been calling that street home for more than two years. On the other side, a landowner who has been clearing his lot in order board horses and move a mobile home onto the property.
Drew Henson lives beside the lot that is being cleared and shot video of his new neighbour pushing trees over with his excavator, often past the dinner hour.
“He took at least 100 trees last weekend,” said Henson. "We've been told he has absolutely no permits on the property but a blasting permit."
Darian Gondor owns the property at the centre of the dispute on Meadowbrook Ridge. He claims he’s allowed to clear the land because he’s doing it under the Right to Farm Act, in order to board his horses.
"This is the starting parts of developing a farm,” Gondor told CTV News. “The first stage of developing any farm is land clearing.”
Gondor provided CTV News with a District of Saanich document that made reference to active tree permits for his property. Those documents were dated 2015, well before Gondor owned the property. When asked if those permits are still in place, he said he believes them to still be active.
When CTV News went to the District of Saanich for clarification, we received this statement:
"For the past several months, Saanich staff have been working with a property owner on Meadowbrook Ridge to facilitate appropriate blasting, tree, and deposit-of-fill permits. On August 30, 2019, staff determined that the owner had proceeded with significant activities without the required permits.
We are taking these bylaw contraventions seriously and as such have conducted numerous inspections of the property and issued stop work orders to the property owner. Construction activities have continued in spite of this. Saanich is currently evaluating its legal options, and intends to take legal action to deal with the unpermitted activities on the property."
Gondor claims those stop-work orders, have been removed from his property.
"There has been stop-work orders on the property for what I understand but they've been removed from the property,” he said.
When asked who removed them, he said he can only assume it was Saanich bylaw officers and claims it was not him. Whoever did remove those posted stop-work orders doesn’t really matter. What does, according to the District of Saanich, is that the orders are still in effect.
Also concerning for neighbours is how the property is being backfilled.
"Starting in June he started to dump household demolition,” said Henson. “It contained concrete, rebar, plastics, tin, [a] car radiator.”
Gondor acknowledges there have been a few loads of what he calls illegal dumping on the property but they were dealt with right away.
“The way we handled that,” said Gondor. “If it was contaminated, it’s put back into a truck and it’s removed from the property.”
The District of Saanich told CTV News that if the stop-work orders continue to be ignored, the next step for the District will be legal action.