Property owner refuses to pay boat cleanup costs
Jon Woodward, CTV British Columbia
Published Monday, July 2, 2012 6:13PM PDT
Last Updated Monday, July 2, 2012 7:26PM PDT
The owner of the Mission property where the provincial government paid as much as $100,000 to secure and clean up a number of derelict vessels is also still on the hook for another 10-year-old cleanup.
Gerald Tapp says he’s going to fight any provincial bills, just as he fought a similar bill for a similar waterfront cleanup in the Township of Langley 10 years ago, on the grounds that he didn’t invite officials onto his land.
“They’re bullies,” the 75-year-old said of the officials who secured the boats against rising floodwaters, installing new pilings and moorings to secure the vessels, which include an old B.C. Ferry, the Queen of Sidney.
“I figure they’re corrupt and I realized they’re corrupt…and when money speaks the truth is silent,” he said, adding that if it comes down to it he would appeal his case to Queen Elizabeth. “She can just read the facts,” he said.
The remarks drew some surprise from B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake, who reminded Tapp that the Queen does not interfere with day-to-day government in Canada.
“In Canada we have the rule of law,” Lake said, adding that the ministry policy is to get the landlord to pay.
On top of that, the ministry is investigating whether it should lay charges after an oil leak, he said. “I’m very confident we have strong legislation to protect the environment,” Lake said.
The provincial government declared an emergency last week as floodwaters rose, worried that the vessels could break free and float down the river, causing more damage. Then, officials noticed one of the vessels was leaking oil, prompting another cleanup.
It’s a similar situation on another Tapp property in Langley. In 2002, the Township of Langley stepped in when barges on the Fraser were spewing bilge water, according to Township Lawyer James Goulden.
“We’ve obtained a couple of judgments against Mr. Tapp,” said Goulden. “With interest it’s now close to $100,000 and despite requests the bills have not been paid.”
The Township is currently in court seeking to sell Tapp’s property and take proceeds from the sale, he said. The province could be also looking at a similar 10-year legal fight, Goulden said.
“In all likelihood they will have to go to court and that will take a lot of time,” he said.
Tapp said Langley had no right to go on his property and he maintained that the city should have allowed him to get a road across the railway tracks, which would have allowed him to sell the barges for scrap.
Tapp has also run into trouble with authorities on the Mission property, because it’s in B.C.’s protected farmland. The Agricultural Land Commission ordering him to stop all non-farm work.
That has so far stopped him from using the ships as film sets and also prevented him from selling the ships as scrap metal, Tapp said.