People have repeatedly set up camp on a piece of private property in the Township of Langley, causing damage to a fence and leaving garbage behind when they are kicked out, according to the landowner, who says he feels powerless to resolve the problem.
“We’ve experienced a real increase in the number of homeless people camping in the forested area on the property,” said Jeff Ray, who bought the commercial property on 64 Avenue, close to 202 Street in 2011.
“We have attempted to work with the township, to resolve the problem but we’re not making any headway and it’s getting to the point now where it’s kind of a ridiculous situation.”
Township has threatened fines for garbage
Ray said he has received threats of fines for having garbage in a wooded area at the back of his property. He has paid a private company, Doug’s Rubbish, to remove the waste on four separate occasions for $1,500 to $2,000 each time.
Winston Kang from Doug’s Rubbish confirmed that his team found evidence of people camping in the area, as well as refuse seemingly from stolen items being stripped for sellable metals, as well as needles.
Each time the area has been cleared, people soon move back in and Ray is forced to call the RCMP and ask them to again remove the people, who once more leave garbage behind, he said.
“So I’m caught in this vicious circle of: If I don’t do something, the Township threatens to fine me under the bylaws for leaving rubbish or refuse or a structure on my property that has not been given a permit.”
Can’t cut trees and brush
Ray said that he wants to clear the brush and trees from the area, in order to make it less appealing for campers, but he is not allowed to do so because of regulations meant to protect the nearby salmon-bearing stream.
“Riparian vegetation (which is the vegetation adjacent to watercourses) may provide features and functions that contribute to the quality of fish habitat,” according to a statement from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, provided by communications advisor Michelle Ambeau.
“For example, shade that moderates water temperature, insects of plant foliage that falls into the watercourse provides food for fish and nutrients for the ecosystems that support fish, root systems of trees and shrubs stabilize the banks of watercourses.”
Kevin Hehr, a kinesiologist at Lifemark Physiotherapy — one of the tenants in the property’s building — said he has seen people he believes were homeless in the back of the parking lot but has only interacted with them once. He said that when he went to move shopping carts from the lot, a group of three people politely volunteered to do it instead.
“They seem like they haven’t disturbed anyone,” he said. “But they do leave a lot of junk around.”
Ray met with Township staff and proposed handing over ownership of the area in exchange for property tax reduction.
Township property manager Scott Thompson said Ray’s proposal would not have worked because subdividing the property would make smaller than bylaws allow.
He also said that the Township’s parks staff looked at the proposal and determined that without any trails through the area, there would be no benefit to the public if it were in the Township’s hands.