Developer Plans To Keep Community from Pot

Developer Plans To Keep Community from Pot
Posted by CN Staff on November 24, 2004 at 15:31:43 PT
By Mark Hume
Source: Globe and Mail 
Vancouver -- When Bill Coughlin returned to the real-estate business after a brief two-year retirement, he was shocked by the encounters he had with former clients.As he travelled around the Fraser Valley, where he had been developing subdivisions and selling homes for 22 years, people stopped him to tell horror stories about the drug problem gripping Chilliwack.
"Bill, you sold me a dream home and right beside me I have a grow-op, three doors down I have another one, on the other side I have another one," he said, recounting a typical tale of woe. "My neighbourhood is destroyed. There's tinfoil on the windows of houses on my street. Nobody cuts their lawns. You never get to see the people. The block parties have stopped. . . . It's like we're hostages. You sold me this home. I'm retired. This is like my dream, but I want to move again."His voice building with emotion, Mr. Coughlin says he hated the feeling of looking into the eyes of his clients and telling them the truth: "There's nowhere I can move you or protect you against this happening a second time."That was then. This week Mr. Coughlin has a new answer. He has proposed building the first gated community in Canada that will require buyers to forfeit their homes if the buildings are ever used for marijuana cultivation.The answer may seem radical to some, Mr. Coughlin says, but they don't know what's happening in Chilliwack and other Fraser Valley communities.Chilliwack, 100 kilometres east of Vancouver and surrounded by farm land, is one of British Columbia's fastest-growing communities. Located in a conservative region known as the Bible Belt, it is popular because for $300,000 to $400,000 you can get a large new home, with a spectacular view of the Coast Range, within commuting distance of Vancouver.But behind the drawn curtains of the seemingly ideal community is an ugly truth. Chilliwack now has the second highest concentration of marijuana-growing operations in B.C., which accounts for about half the drug cultivation incidents reported by Canadian police. Last year the community of 70,000 people had more than 200 known grow-ops, a fourfold increase from the late 1990s.Police in B.C. are making a concerted effort to stamp out grow-ops but haven't been able to keep up.Many of the grow-ops in Chilliwack are located in the burgeoning, upscale neighbourhoods where the detached homes have large yards and big, drive-in garages that provide privacy. Mr. Coughlin said the anonymity has allowed grow-ops to spread like a cancer that has destroyed the sense of community.His plan is to regain that feeling of neighbourliness with a strict set of covenants applying to detached homes within a new development now taking shape."You have to say I am willing to sign an option agreement that says if I have a grow-op, that I will lose my home within 30 days," he said.The covenant, which may not be legally enforceable, is only a proposal at this stage. Mr. Coughlin plans to put it to the public at an open house in Promontory Park on Saturday. But, he says, he thinks people in Chilliwack will go for it."Since I started talking about this I haven't had one negative comment," Mr. Coughlin said."If I have enough people sign up, and right now I think I will, then we have a whole new concept for housing. Quite frankly I see this in every community."This really is a serious issue for anybody who has a home and it's been devastated with a grow-op right beside you. . . . I mean the public here is quite honestly traumatized. . . . entire neighbourhoods are in fear."Neal, who lives in one of Chilliwack's more exclusive neighbourhoods, said the community changed dramatically about two years ago when a wave of drug growers moved in.Asking that his last name not be used, he said there is one active grow-op on the street, and an empty home that is up for sale was a grow-op. That house, he said, is one of the most beautiful in the neighbourhood, with an elaborate marble entrance."You are always worried that there is going to be some kind of conflict," Neal said. "It makes you feel very insecure."He has lived in the area for 40 years, 27 in his current house, and never thought it would come to this."It's bad. Almost everyone has a grow-op [horror] story to tell."Note: Buyers in Chilliwack, B.C., would agree to forfeit homes if marijuana grow-op found.Complete Title: Developer Plans To Keep Community from Going To PotSource: Globe and Mail (Canada) Author: Mark HumePublished: Wednesday, November 24, 2004 - Page A12 Copyright: 2004 The Globe and Mail CompanyContact: letters globeandmail.caWebsite: News Canadian Links -- Canada Archives 
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