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Farming disappears as exceptions made to land use rules

Heli-skiing business doesn’t belong in the heart of farm land, says letter writer
Northern Escape Heli Skiing offers an exclusive package to super rich clients who spend the day skiing and are lodged at the Skeena River Ranch, also called the old Kozier farm, in Old Remo. (Submitted photo)

To the editor,

I have been buying goods off the previous caretakers of the former Kozier farm for upwards of eight years including hay, fruits, veggies, chickens, eggs, beef and soaps — to name just a few.

I’m not 100 per cent sure what led to the dissolve of the relationship but I was told the owners didn’t want to farm anymore when the previous caretakers tilled an area for a strawberry patch.

The American owners no longer wanted to pay to till or reseed the hay fields, which renders them useless. No repairs were made to the hay storage (leaky roof will ruin hay stored under the leaks) and no fencing repairs.

Our house in New Remo is right on one of the Northern Escape Heli-Skiing flight paths and we are directly affected by the company operating out of the lodge on the former Kozier farm.

Northern Escape’s John Forrest will argue that they’ve been flying the same flight path for 20 years and I will agree with that. However in the last 15 years that my family has owned this property, I can tell you with absolute certainty that the traffic amount has increased substantially. There are three flight times during the day but each flight time accommodates up to three trips, so we are getting upwards of 12 passes a day.

When you buy into these Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) properties there are many rules that go along with it on how you can use the property. The American owners of the former Kozier farm knew that when they bought into it.

The fact is they are using a back door approach to get rezoning. If they would have bought the property and applied to build a lodge before building it, would we even be having this conversation right now?

Many of us have been denied subdividing our properties or building structures that don’t comply exactly with the ALR designation so for us this goes way beyond just having the uber-rich in our backyard. This has to do with the fact that just because you have a ton of money the rules don’t apply to you. You get to be an exception.

Regardless if they have a little Crown land around them (which they do) it’s not nearly enough of a noise buffer. They’re operating a commercial business out of a residential neighborhood, flying in and out multiple times a day.

All the bylaw complaints regarding operating a helicopter out of a residential neighborhood went ignored the last couple months. They haven’t even had the application to rezone approved yet so they are getting away with operating an unsanctioned business on ALR land, that doesn’t align with the ALR regulations, with zero repercussions in this time before anything has been approved.

They have been allowed to operate for months out of an ALR property that hasn’t even been rezoned yet and the regional district ignored all noise complaints from surrounding residents.

Operating a heli-skiing business out of a residential neighborhood for the rich, who are being targeted by Northern Escape and now the ultra luxurious lodge to accommodate heli-skiing on top of that, doesn’t belong in the heart of farm land.

This is not a remote location where their dealings don’t affect people, this is in the middle of a populated neighborhood. This is why we’re so against this rezoning and upset that our complaints are falling on deaf ears.

I’ve spoken to John Forrest regarding the obnoxious air traffic and I was met with a promise of ‘we’ll try our best to avoid your property’. That was weeks ago and absolutely nothing changed. If we can’t stand to stay here now because of this, are we going to even be able to sell our affected properties?

If I knew then what I know now, we would not have purchased in Old Remo or New Remo. This kind of activity isn’t what you expect to be next to when you fork out for these rural properties.

The amount of money that this type of tourism brings to our community will be minimal, the people that can afford to pay $100,000 for these trips aren’t going into town to spend any money in the shops that our community has to offer. The grocery and liquor stores, diesel fueling stations for the helicopters and John Forrest will be the only benefactors of these transactions.

You don’t build a lodge like this without some thought that there may be another way to use it to make money. The thought process of build first and beg for permission afterwards is absolutely and utterly asinine.

The environmental footprint of flying the way they are is huge, and the noise and disturbance interrupt the wildlife that frequent the Zymacord River. This, with the ‘build first ask for permission after’ mentality, has led to the extreme push back that John Forrest has been feeling.

If we make an exception here, and then another exception is made there, all those exceptions add up and all the farm land slowly disappears, which threatens agriculture country wide.

Dana Williams,

New Remo, B.C.

READ MORE: Heli-ski resort for the super rich pushes back amid public scrutiny

READ MORE: ‘High end heli-ski resort for the super rich’ threatens local farms


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