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Frustrated Point Roberts property owners hold rally at border

Owners want maintenance visits to homes to be declared essential travel
Point Roberts property owners held a rally at the border on Sunday afternoon to express their frustration of maintenance trips to their homes not being considered essential travel during the current Canada/U.S. border closure.

About 40 Lower Mainland residents, who own property in Point Roberts, held a rally at the border on Sunday afternoon to express their frustration of not being able to access their homes.

The U.S./Canada border has been closed to non-essential travel since March and border restrictions have been extended through to at least Sept. 21.

Canadian residents entering the U.S. without COVID-19 symptoms are currently required to quarantine for 14 days after they return.

Point Roberts can only be accessed by crossing a vehicle through Canada, flying in on a small plane or by private boat.

The owners want to see car visits to their homes declared essential.

“I just want to go my property. Check for rodents, check for leaks, electrical and all that stuff,” said Rob Espenhain, a Ladner resident and one of the rally organizers. “It doesn’t make sense that they will allow you to fly to Seattle, drive to Bellingham then fly by small plane to Point Roberts, but you can’t drive across. It’s an extreme higher risk of coming into contact with COVID-19 at a much higher cost.”

Espenhain suggests owners could be given a temporary permit that would have to be displayed on their car to ensure there is no travel in Point Roberts beyond their homes. Noting 75 percent of the homes are owned by Canadians who are taxpayers, it could be monitored by local law enforcement with fines being issued.

“I have emailed politicians and I’ve got the same response that we are not going to open up for travel,” added Espenhain. “I’m not looking to travel. I just want it declared essential where I can look at my property and then come back with no contact with anybody.”

Jon Morris has repairs at his home that need to be addressed with fall on the horizon. He has been out of luck trying to find anyone in Point Roberts to do it.

“I’ve been trying for four months to get someone to re-seal the windows of our skylights because they were leaking all winter,” he said. “Some property management can’t be done at the best of times down there. All of us have to do our own work and it’s essential work that has to be done.”

Bob Cannon has dual citizenship, but his wife doesn’t and the 14-day quarantine is problematic for his job.

“All we want to see is it be declared essential for property owners. I don’t care if it opens (completely). It doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “Keep it closed. Just let me be essential. Let me go down there and look after my horses, my boat and my house because nobody else is.

“We have a house that was built in 1912, our family has been here forever and a lot of these people are the same. We’re not going to by gas or go to the post office. Make us essential.”