Yet another case of regulatory excess — story by Sam Cooper of The Province, as published in the Abbotsford Mission Times:
“There’s no way Len Gratto is paying a $5,200 fine to Mission city hall for growing cucumbers in his basement.
Gratto – a 67-year-old who has lived for 30 years with his wife in their Mission home – says he’s raring to join an imminent class-action lawsuit attacking the municipality’s grow-op bylaw inspections.
A number of citizens, led by Mission man Stacy Gowanlock, will allege their homes were illegally searched for pot grow-ops and they were slapped with fees and repair orders costing upward of $10,000 – all on questionable evidence.
Gratto says he’s never grown pot, but “laughable” evidence against him consists of pictures of some “dirt” on the basement wall and “a furnace pipe going up into the chimney, where it should be.”
“It’s upsetting they can do this,” Gratto said. “We were growing cucumbers in the basement because they wouldn’t take outside.”
Gowanlock said he was searched in 2009 and hit with thousands in fees and repair orders despite never growing pot in his home. A lawyer could be filing his civil suit within days, he said.
“I’m going to be the one that steps forward,” he said. “It’s the whole process. You’re violating people’s rights.”
And in a move that could potentially alter the landscape of drug enforcement in B.C., the B.C. Civil Liberties Association says it will join the battle against Mission but widen the focus into a region-wide challenge to “home grow-op bylaws.”
Grow-op bylaw programs, which are based on provincial legislation, allow municipal inspectors to enter homes with abnormally high hydro usage – about 93 kilowatts per day or more – and look for evidence of illegal marijuana grow-ops for public safety reasons. Inspectors don’t have to find grow-ops, but if they find supposed residual evidence, such as high mould readings, they levy search fees and order repairs. If homeowners don’t comply, homes are tagged under the bylaw and effectively condemned as unsafe, and unsellable.
According to proponents, the bylaws have been phenomenally successful in driving pot production out of the Lower Mainland.
In mid-December, the BCCLA’s Micheal Vonn led a delegation to Mission’s council, warning grounds for a class-action suit are strong, and searches are “putting innocent people under horrible duress.”