Pubdate: Wed, 17 Sep 2008
Source: Goldstream Gazette (Victoria, CN BC)
Copyright: 2008 Goldstream News Gazette
Author: Edward Hill


West Shore RCMP busted a 463-plant marijuana grow-op in Colwood 
Monday, leaving the homeowner on the hook for cleanup and repair costs.

The bust is the first test of Colwood's nuisance and controlled 
substances bylaw, where the homeowner can be billed for police and 
staff resources used to dismantle illegal drug operations.

Colwood bylaw officer Kevin Atkinson confirmed City and health 
authorities will be investigating the Promenade Crescent house for 
safety concerns and building code violations.

"Billing kicks in when police start dismantling the grow-op," 
Atkinson said. "Everything now is billable time."

Five West Shore RCMP officers raided the house about 4:30 p.m. Sept. 
15, booting down the door after the occupants wouldn't answer. Two 
men in their late 20s or early 30s were arrested without incident, 
said Const. Ross Wallace.

It's unclear if either of the men owned the property, but both face 
charges of production of a controlled substance. No weapons were 
found in the house, Wallace said.

"It was a good sized grow. This was a good one to shut down," he 
said. "The (463) plants were near the stage of being harvested."

Citizen complaints and investigative work lead officers to the 
upscale home in the quiet Royal Bay neighbourhood, Wallace said.

"We rely on the public to assist on locating grow-ops. Usually people 
can tell by the smell," he said. "It's a nice neighhourhood here, but 
people around told us something was just not right."

It will be an interesting to see if the homeowner co-operates with 
the inspection and repair process, Atkinson said.

"It's concerning to see this happening in the middle of a residential 
neighborhood," Atkinson said. "It's not what we want to see."

Billing for police and Colwood staff, utility, fire and building 
inspectors, plus house repairs, will likely cost on the order of 
$40,000, if Langford's first grow-op charge is any measure.

In late April, West Shore RCMP busted a 500-plant grow-op on 
Crystalview Drive in Langford, triggering the first use of that 
city's nuisance bylaw.

So far, the homeowner faces a $30,000 bill for police and bylaw staff 
time for dismantling and disposal. Wiring the house to code and 
reconnecting it to the grid cost on the order of $9,000. A hygienist 
to inspect the health quality of the building was another $2,000, as 
was a mechanical engineer to inspect the connection to the public 
waterline. The owner also faces paying for renovations to the home.

"Costs mount quite rapidly," said Langford senior bylaw officer Lorne 
Fletcher, who helped spearhead the nuisance bylaw within the CRD 
several years ago.

That grow-op, also in a dense residential neighbourhood, had a 
sophisticated odour scrubbing system running through a water tank, 
tied into Capital Regional District water, Fletcher said.

"CRD water folks were concerned the grow-op compromised the water 
supply in the neighbourhood," he said. "Before they reactivated (the 
water) a mechanical engineer was sent in to ensure there was no 
hazards to the water system."

The house remains unoccupied, Fletcher said, but the owner is 
co-operating with restoring it back to code. Employing Langford's 
anti grow-op bylaw went smoother than expected, he noted.

"I thought for our first time there would be a number of problems, a 
number of wrinkles to work out," he said. "But its coming along as 

"Here is a situation where $30,000 to $50,000 of taxpayer money 
wasn't spent how it normally would be in the past," Fetcher 
continued. "Council wants to ensure taxpayers are not on the hook for 
dismantling costs. They want this not to be an easy place to setup 
and run grow-ops."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart