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Hornby Island Dump

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Despite clean-up of Hornby Island hoarder's property,
the issue isn't settled yet

Michael Briones, Comox Valley Echo, Friday, July 09, 2010

The cleanup of the property of Hornby Island's well-known hoarder William Robert Wilson went well but the Islands Trust's troubles are not over.

Neighbours who have complained about Wilson's unregulated dump for years, said the issue is not over.

"The fact that they've done now what they were supposed to do under bylaw enforcement last week has nothing to do with the damage to our life and the charges against them for environmental hazard," said Jane Talbot, who, along with Stepen Vanicek, is still proceeding with her lawsuit, against the Trust, Hornby Island Local Trust Committee (HILTC), William Wilson, Ron Emerson, Tony Law, George Buvyer and the Islands Trust Council.

"This is a huge story. It's not about me and what I want. It's about how Islands Trust is run and how they violate their mandate."

Talbot and Vanicek have been at loggerheads with the Islands Trust and HILTC in regards to Wilson's property that had been used as a junk yard for around 30 years. They filed a claim in court in November 2008. The case will be heard in court in January 2011.

Last March, the Trust attempted to have the lawsuit dismissed on the grounds that they did not contain reasonable claims.

Justice Verhoeven agreed that the statement of claim was "confusing and contradictory" but he declined to dismiss the case. Instead, he ordered Talbot and Vanicek to file a new claim that complies with the rules of court.

Talbot and Vanicek are accusing the Trust, HILTC, Trustees, and the Islands Trust Council of negligence, misfeasance in public office and bad faith. They are also suing Wilson for nuisance.

The lawsuit stemmed from the failure of the HILTC to deal with a court order issued on May 25, 1998 to clean up Wilson's property, which he operated as an unregulated and unlicensed dump since 1993.

Wilson failed to comply and although the HILTC hired a contractor to remove the waste and salvage materials, neighbours claim the clean up was not complete.

Talbot complained to the HILTC, trustees and bylaw officer who were alleged to have refused or neglected to act in a timely manner. These had caused Talbot to suffer loss, damage and expense including the loss of value in their property.

"We had to move away and leave our great careers here building organic houses," said Talbot, who now resides in Vancouver. "We've rearranged our lives. We've lost 10 years. All our projects here are gone and dead. We've really lost a lot. I want to make sure that this does not happen to some one else. I don't want anybody to come here under the amazing marketing that Hornby does that they would be safe, because they won't be."

In Talbot's claim the Trust Council and the Islands Trust failed to review the activities of the HILTC in their failure to act promptly on the complaint on the condition of Wilson's property as well as their failure, refusal or neglect to properly instruct HILTC, Emerson, Law and Buvyer in the proper execution of their duties.

The Trust finally took action to clean Wilson's property last week following a second court order. The cleanup took five days to complete and cost over $35,000. All sorts of debris, garbage and salvage, as well as hazardous materials which required the services of a company specializing in handling harmful chemicals, were removed.

The last time the property was cleaned up in 1998, Tim Biggins was paid $5,200 to do the job.

"The job was inspected by the Islands Trust and it passed their criteria," said Biggins.

Trust chair Sheila Malcolmson told the Echo they were glad to see the property finally cleaned because they "recognized it's been very hard on the neighbours."

Malcolmson said she does not have the details as to why it took them this long to execute the court order because it happened before they came into office. However, it was her understanding that the delay stemmed from the difficulty of determining what is junk and what is Wilson's personal property.

This time, the bylaw officer Drew Miles conducted an investigation of Wilson's property. He noted that all the waste and salvage were in violation of the Island's bylaws and were deemed removable from the property.

Talbot said the cleanup was long overdue as some of the property owners in the area have now sold their houses below market value because they didn't believe the Islands Trust would ever clean up Wilson's property.Talbot said her lawsuit is not about monetary compensation. She wants an apology and a promise to restructure the Islands Trust.

"If my goal was money, I would have done something different. I would have blocked this cleanup because they were removing evidence. My concern for the environment exceeds money. What I am seeking is an accountable, transparent and democratic government for these Islands. I am seeking to preserve and protect the environment for all B.C. residents and the residents of the Trust area as their mandate suggest. It's a matter of principle for me."

Malcolmson said the lawsuit is unfortunate.

© Comox Valley Echo 2010

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