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East Delta farmer claims he's been target of civic government for accepting fill

Don Malenstyn says he's trying to raise low-lying farm to grow crops

An East Delta farmer whose property has been controversial since he started accepting fill says he's being targeted by a vindictive municipal government.

Don Malenstyn, who's been accepting large quantities of fill on his 104th Street property, said he's both frustrated and furious that he's being singled out for simply trying to raise the level of his flood prone, low-lying property in order to grow crops.

"More than four years ago I went in for a permit to dump on my place. I was told by Delta I don't need a permit, told by the ALC (Agricultural Land Commission) I don't need a permit, because mine is for a farm use purposes, not a non-farm use," he told the Optimist.

In an interview earlier this year, Malenstyn said he was angered at being lumped with other property owners who have been accepting questionable fill by companies offering big dollars to dump.

Malenstyn, who was recently visited again by an inspector with the ALC, which has issued a stop work order, said he was upset to learn another property down the street was given permission to dump additional fill. The ALC granted Princess Farms permission to deposit an additional 36,500 cubic metres of topsoil, in addition to the 300,000 cubic metres of mixed soil previously allowed, although Delta council voted against the application.

What's made Malenstyn's blood boil even more is a photo of his 80-acre property recently posted on the Corporation of Delta website notifying the public that a new soil conservation and protection bylaw is in the works.

The bylaw is aimed at enhancing Delta's ability to regulate soil deposit and removal activities on agricultural land and allow for better protection of the agricultural land base.

According to Delta, "In recent years there has been an increasing number of instances where fill material is being used in volumes and in locations that are unnecessary or inappropriate for agricultural land. The cumulative effect of these fill operations is to gradually erode the agricultural land base as prime topsoil is covered with less fertile subsoil."

Malenstyn said his property is already prone to flooding and the situation, he claims, has been made all the worse with Delta's irrigation works, which negatively impacted his land, resulting in lawsuits against the municipality.

"It makes me furious. I guarantee you Delta has spent over $2 million of taxpayers' money fighting me, paying me and everything else for the flooding issues they've caused on my farm," he said.

"I used to be able to grow potatoes but now my farm is useless. What drives me nuts is nobody's accountable."

Malenstyn, whose property has been in his family since the 1950s, said he'll observe the ALC's stop work order for now, but it will eventually get quashed.

He said his plan is to grow cranberries. Potatoes planted this year on areas that haven't received fill have been a bust, he said.

Pointing out the piles of dirt and fill on the farm appear extremely high, Coun. Bruce McDonald said he doesn't buy Malenstyn's argument he's simply trying to raise the farm a few feet to improve the land's capability.

"It's now a mountain of fill. He does not have a fill permit and he does not have a permit from the Agricultural Land Commission, and from my understanding they've sent him letters that he cease and desist," said McDonald.

Delta needs a bylaw mirroring what's in place in Surrey to give it a stronger say in dumping activities, he added.

"The Agricultural Land Commission does not have the wherewithal or the means to chase this stuff down over the whole province. At a hundred bucks a fill, you can see how it can be awfully tempting for someone to accept a thousand truckloads."

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