He's being punished for having the audacity to make a profit off his land, says an irate East Delta farm owner who's now put his property up for sale.
Bob Robertson, who owns 16.5 hectares at 10785 Ladner Trunk Rd., recently placed his land up for sale, saying he's being forced to sell because he was making money storing a large number of vehicles, boats and supplies.
"I don't know why they decided to single me out. I was making a real good living at it and preserving the land," he told the Optimist.
A B.C. Supreme Court judge this summer ordered a prohibition on the storage of vehicles and boats on Robertson's property, which has a prominent R.
Robertson Cattle Company sign on one of the large buildings. Robertson said he was still farming and involved in the buying and selling of cattle, but had been out of the cattle business for 14 years due to staggering losses.
Delta and the Agricultural Land Commission sought an order against him, arguing Robertson's storage business, called R&R Storage, was a non-farm use and therefore prohibited.
Robertson said he made sure he paid the commercial tax rate for his property, but that didn't satisfy Delta and the ALC.
"I've never received any subsidy or any handout from anybody ever since I started business at 19," he said.
Noting several nearby farm properties are also being used as vehicle storage lots but are in deplorable condition due to neglect, as well as continued dumping, Robertson said he doesn't see the problem in his trying to make a profit while maintaining his land.
He noted he made over $300,000 annually storing about 300 vehicles year round, as well as boats and RVs. He also made money storing lumber and other supplies. As well, he rented out a building to an elevator repair business.
All of this was done discreetly in clean, wellmaintained buildings on an immaculate, laser-leveled property, he explained.
"I'm the biggest, I'm the cleanest and I feel we offered the best service, and we do it for profit. I farm every acre. I didn't park on farmland, I just parked on hardtop and inside the buildings," Robertson said.
Now 60, Robertson has owned and worked the land since the early 1970s, but said he can't go on trying to make a profit from farming.
He's asking for just under $5 million, but wonders who has the capital to make such an investment and then take the risk farming it.
Mayor Lois Jackson said the non-farm use of the property has been going on for a long time and the municipality was simply following due process.
Delta's new agricultural plan contains a series of action plans, including investigating incentives to encourage farmland use and discouraging non-farm use. The plan also calls for improving enforcement of existing regulations, including soil filling, storage and waste dumping.