Friday, April 04, 2008

 

Les faces second probe

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How does this relate to BCRail, or to Basi, Virk, or Basi? In general terms, it's because John Les as Solicitor General was the top cop for British Columbia. Because we've seen ALR land removal issues in Tsawwassen connected to Deltaport connected to BC Rail. Because we've seen I.C.B.C. issues connected to Erik Bornmann via Brian Kieran via Paul Taylor to the BC Ministry of Finance. And more. Citizens need to know. - BC Mary.

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LES FACES SECOND PROBE
Subdivision of Chilliwack land catches eye of Agricultural Land Commission

Chad Skelton, Larry Pynn and Lori Culbert

Vancouver Sun - Friday, April 04, 2008

The Agricultural Land Commission said Thursday it will open an investigation into land dealings in Chilliwack involving then-mayor John Les.

Les stepped down as B.C. solicitor-general -- a job that put him in charge of all police in the province -- last Friday after it was revealed Les himself was the subject of a police investigation into land dealings in Chilliwack while he was mayor.


The Land Commission plans to investigate why a municipal official subdivided a Chilliwack property linked to Les, despite the commission twice refusing to break the property up on the grounds it would be bad for agriculture.

Commission executive officer Brian Underhill said in an interview the approving officer's decision to allow subdivision of the so-called Rosebank Place property appears to be inconsistent with the position of the commission, which had refused a subdivision request by the prior owners in 1991 and 1992.

"It would be appropriate for the commission to ask its senior staff to look into this further, to gather information about this particular case," Underhill said.
"I would expect our board of commissioners would ask us to gather further information and bring it back for further direction." Underhill said he made the decision after The Vancouver Sun faxed him municipal documents showing the subdivision changes on the property as authorized by Chilliwack's "approving officer" -- who was then the city's development director, Grant Sanborn. Underhill said he expects the issue to be on the agenda when the board meets in June. The story goes back to 1985 when Wilmer Rasmussen received permission from the land commission to put a mobile home on his 11-acre agricultural property in rural Chilliwack. Rasmussen returned to the commission in 1990 asking to sever two acres from the property so he could build a home for his retirement. He planned to sell the remainder of the property to family members. The commission rejected the request in 1991 "on the grounds that the remainder was too small to be considered a viable farm unit." Rasmussen tried again in 1992 but the commission didn't budge, saying that "a number of similar requests for homesite severance have been refused in the area for exactly . . . the same reason." The commission also noted that the Rasmussen property "appeared to be used as a hobby farm." To approve the family's request would "have a far greater negative impact on both the future use of the land and the likelihood of continued parcelization pressures," the commission ruled. Yet five years later, in 1997, a numbered company co-owned by Les bought the same 11-acre property and subdivided it and two smaller adjacent properties into six lots -- all but one of them no larger than two acres -- without ever going to the Land Commission for approval. How Les did that, and whether it was done properly, has caused much media and public speculation since last Friday, when it was revealed the RCMP was investigating his land dealings during his time as mayor of Chilliwack from 1987 to 1999.

Former and current residents near the development, as well as officials with the Agricultural Land Commission, have confirmed police have contacted them about the Rosebank Place deal.
Vancouver resident Willy Rasmussen, whose parents originally owned the 11-acre property, has asked publicly why it appears Les was allowed to do something his parents were not.

Les said this week he did nothing wrong, and on Thursday refused to be interviewed further.
But newly released records from Chilliwack city hall appear to reveal how the deal was done. The process began in the summer of 1997, when Les's business partners went to Chilliwack city council with a proposal to rezone two small, adjacent lots on Rosebank Place from agricultural to residential. The two lots, which bordered on the much larger farm once owned by the Rasmussens but then owned by Les, were in the Agricultural Land Reserve but each lot was smaller than two acres, so they were exempt from the commission's control. Les stepped out of the council chamber each time the matter was discussed, citing a potential conflict of interest.

There was no opposition to the rezoning at a public hearing on Sept. 15 and on Oct. 6, 1997. City council -- absent Les -- unanimously approved the rezoning.

After the rezoning was complete, on Dec. 12, 1997, Sanborn approved a subdivision of the two lots into five smaller residential lots, ranging in size from a half-acre to a full acre.
But it was what Sanborn did next that is causing the current controversy. According to plans filed at Chilliwack city hall, Sanborn approved a series of dramatic boundary changes that took the five plots he had earlier created, plus the former Rasmussen farm, and turned it all into six residential plots, all but one of them about two acres in size.

Under provincial regulations at the time, a municipal official designated as an "approving officer," which Sanborn was, could make certain boundary changes to agricultural land without prior approval of the commission. Under those rules, however, the changes could be made only if the total number of land parcels didn't change and if the adjustments, in the opinion of the official, would "allow for the more efficient use of agricultural land or the better utilization of farm buildings for farm purposes."

Following the subdivision approved by Sanborn, Les's numbered company sold off the subdivided lots for prices ranging from $175,000 to $220,000. Today, with large homes built on each, some of the properties are worth more than a million dollars. {Snip} ...................

During his time as mayor, Les regularly criticized the ALR, and other land-use restrictions, for limiting growth in his community.
In 1997, Les vowed to appeal a decision by the commission to turn down a plan to turn some ALR land into an industrial park -- estimating the commission's decision would cost the region $225 million in investments and 250 high-paying jobs.

And in 1998, Les said he would be willing to go to jail in protest against "harsh" new provincial laws to protect fish and streams, which municipal leaders then feared would cause turmoil and generate expense.
Les owned a numbered company that bought the Rosebank Place property with Bernie van Maren, the president of a large Chilliwack real estate development company.

It was not the only development deal Les was involved in during and after his 12 years as mayor.
In October 2000, another numbered company owned by Les purchased a plot of land on Bell Road in Chilliwack, subdivided it and then sold it off as 11 smaller lots.

Jim Acker, the former owner of the Bell Road property, said in an interview the RCMP questioned him last fall about his sale of the family property to Les. "They were just investigating, trying to get some information, about what transpired in the sale," Acker told The Sun. Acker had tried in 1997 to have the land rezoned from agricultural to residential, but was turned down by city council, in part because of community opposition.

Acker said Les approached him in 2000 about selling the land, and added he was not surprised Les was able to get the property rezoned when he could not three years earlier.
"You don't be mayor for 11, 12 years and not develop friendships," he said. Acker thought he was treated fairly by Les, and does not think Les did anything wrong.

Les had worked as a property developer and was mayor in Chilliwack from 1987 to 1999. He was elected a Liberal MLA in 2001 and was the solicitor-general until Friday, when he resigned after the media revealed the RCMP and a special prosecutor were investigating him in connection with unspecified past land deals in Chilliwack.
Les said this week he removed himself from all potential conflicts of interest while he was mayor, but would not say what land deals he was involved with during his time at city hall.

A CASE OF INCREMENTAL SUBDIVISION The Agricultural Land Commission wants to get to the bottom of how this farm -- part of the Agricultural Land Reserve -- ended up as large, expensive housing lots.

http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/story.html?id=55158f4d-5931-48a9-b0d7-2e6d620e4c8d

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Comments:
Express Collision Shop Said,

Check out Vancouver Sun online Regarding ICBC. About time.
 
In response to your connection list - there are way more connections than that. I have a different perspective which I would have thought was only peripherally connected to Basi-Virk and BC Rail but I've been coming across so many connections to Basi-Virk from my "area of interest" that I've turned my attention in part to this BC Rail thing - to see if I recognize any more names that have come up in relationship to my own "investigation".

I really don't want to be involved in any story since I just happened to come across the bit of info that led to my discovery of what I believe should be known. I can provide all details and connections .

The question is where/who do I give it to? I did leave a post in Bill Tieleman's blog (anonymous) but as of yet nobody has responded to my post, which was censored but still I think my point survived - I have real information and need to know where to go.

One aspect of the situation includes John Les' direct connection and action re a real estate related matter that took place in the time period after the "secret investigation" started 10 months ago.
 
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Greg:

Thanks for your diligence, and for your confidence too.

The state of the media in B.C. these days is: Whistleblowers get the word out any way they can. Bit by bit, just work to get the story around.

You need to be careful, though. No accusations without proof.

On the other hand, hints aren't very powerful either. We all have our suspicions.

So maybe your best bet is to start by telling your story to a lawyer who can assess the information you have. Then go forth ...

There's actually a blog called WHISTLEBLOWERS BC, which might welcome your contribution.

There are lively discussions ongoing at The Tyee right now, stories about John Les and about honesty among M.L.A.s, where you can add your own comments.

You're correct in thinking we need a connection to the BCRail Case before it fits on this web-site but I hope you'll keep us informed if, as you say, the connections are becoming visible.

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Thanks for replying. I appreciate the recommendations - I've spent the last few days trying to figure out where I should/could give my info to someone else so I've read all the blogs, news, etc including The Tyee - saw the cement comments and the invite for people with other story leads but no reply as of yet.

I did get in touch with a major tv network, certainly they were interested, we have spoken for hours on the phone but there is an aspect to the whole thing that makes me wonder ... when I'm asked not to contact other media etc ie in order to give a chance for a lead over other media and when I have other info that they need ... well, I can understand that everyone is busy but as I said, there is a certain aspect to my story that I wonder how actually eager the mainstream media is to cover this. I say that since it is going on a week since I first got to the network.

So, maybe I'll be forced to give a few hints ... but I guess I am still sort of hoping that someone else would be the person who persistently keeps getting the story around and that maybe it'd be you, Mary and that you could just phone me and in 20 seconds you would understand my reticence to be point man for the effort.

I'm not trying to be mysterious, I'm not afraid of my identity being found out or anything, I just really don't want to be involved. All I have is verifiable info via the internet and land title, court searches, tax rolls, etc anyway. It isn't as if there is anything that I'm needed for.

I need to explain it to someone who has a pretty detailed understanding of politics and the various people in the government so that I don't have to spend hours educating them.

I have links to the various resources on the internet to verify my information.

This last part is for Mary to get rid of if she wants - Mary, if I could be certain that you would moderate my email address out of a comment I would put it in and trust you to take it out - if you happen to be interested in what I have. Alternatively, I could make a short comment with a few words that would immediately let you know the situation.

The only thing I have to offer as a sort of reference is that I spent a good deal of time with Ma Murray, there can't be too many left.
 
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Greg:

Many thanks indeed.

Have you promised "the network" exclusive rights to the story? If so, is there a time limit on how long you'll maintain your silence?

What I'm asking is: are you free to give me the story?

I'll say this: if you'll type NOT FOR PUBLICATION at the top of your message, I'll be able to read it -- and will make sure it doesn't get posted for public viewing.

Then I'll have to ask others for help with it.

So if that's OK with you, I can at least give you an opinion or, with a bit of luck, may be able to get your story around.

Is it the sort of thing that makes a person think of calling the police? Did you talk to the police?

Anyway, let me know and I'll phone you. It's great that you're trying to help. Thanks from us all.


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Greg:

This is just to acknowledge that your message was received.

Even the little bit you've said, is way more complex than I had imagined ... so I'm doing some due diligence myself.

Back later. Many thanks indeed.

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Greg:

Way more complex than I expected but, for the moment, I am checking out a few things you mentioned.

One thing: about The Tyee, don't be discouraged that the editorial staff hasn't responded. It's kinda crazy, but they rarely ever do respond.

Why don't you present a precis of what you've discovered, as a comment on the John Les thread or the M.L.A. thread? We know that Tyee staff does read the comments because most of us find our comments censored now and then.

I hope I'm going to be able to help you, Greg, although it may not be anything like the help you are hoping for.

I like your suggestion that I might publish your most recent message.

If you could write up a piece which is a bit more specific (while protecting yourself and this web-site), I'd like to think that some of the people who regularly read TLR will be able to support what you're hoping to do.

Which, of course, I'm not even sure what that is.

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Well, "Greg", I've had overnight to think about this.

And there are problems with what you have told me.

You wouldn't be trying to kid BC Mary, would you?

You would. That much I know already.

But why?

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Here is a link to a forum where I'm "documenting" my "investigation". It is starting to get to some interesting stuff but I haven't got yet to pursuing the leads to the Basi-Virk thing.

http://twelvestone.com/forum_thread/view/38519
 
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