Mission’s year in review

The Mission Record takes a look back at the top news stories of 2013

The torch lighting ceremony for the upcoming Mission BC Winter Games was held in November.

The torch lighting ceremony for the upcoming Mission BC Winter Games was held in November.



Steelhead development denied

Mission council had no appetite to change the Official Community Plan to accommodate a development in Steelhead, which would have pumped $23 million into the local economy.

Located north of Mill Pond, the area is home to a small number of hobby farms and remote homes on acreages. Resident Dean Hodgson had hoped council would approve his request to redesignate 80 acres of property on Thomas Avenue and Cardinal Street to rural residential from its current rural zoning.

However, district staff and council agreed allowing changes to the OCP for the proposed development wasn’t in the district’s best interest.

Under the current zoning, any rural lots must be at least four acres. If Hodgson had been successful in amending the OCP, lots sizes would’ve only needed to be 1.73 acres, allowing for as many as 46 lots on the site.


Hayden inducted into hall of fame

Local swimming sensation Brent Hayden was inducted into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame in Vancouver.

“I’m extremely thrilled,” Hayden said shortly after the ceremony. “There are so many great men and women in the Hall of Fame and to be among them is an honour.”

Hayden won a bronze medal in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London in the 100 m freestyle. He finished with a time of 47.80 seconds, far off his personal best of 47.27. Canada had not placed an athlete in the Olympic 100 m freestyle final in 52 years and had never captured a medal before.

Hayden was co-world champion in the 100 m freestyle in 2007, which marked Canada’s first gold at the World Aquatic Championships in 21 years. From 2002-12, Hayden won three silvers and one bronze at the world championships and eight Commonwealth Games medals.

He retired after the London Olympics and now lives in Vancouver.




Final chapter of a storied career

As Chantel Waite packed her bags and bundled up her two-year-old granddaughter at the end of Babytime at the Mission Library, she fought back tears.

For the past 35 years Elspeth Bowers has channeled a lifelong passion for literacy into her career at the library. She was as a recognizable figure at the library as the thousands of books that line the shelves.

But like any great novel, it all comes to an end. The popular children’s librarian retired Feb. 15.

When she started her career, she did so because of her love for children and their endless potential. And as time passed, it was this fuel that fanned her desire to continue to pass on the critical skills she has honed.

As she set to retire, she looked forward to other joys in her life, like working on her small farm and greenhouse, and other work in the community.


B.C. Games countdown starts

The 2014 B.C. Winter Games countdown clock was unveiled at the Mission Leisure Centre.

The Games’ success will be driven by the volunteer efforts of local citizens, said Mission Mayor Ted Adlem. Politicians and staff of the day submitted a bid in September 2008 and by April 2009, Mission’s success at securing the event was announced.

A board of directors is being led by Brian Antonson. About 2,000 volunteers are need to help out. The Games happen Feb. 20-23, 2014.


Bomb threat prompts MSS evacuation

Police searched Mission Secondary School for a bomb, but came up empty-handed.

The school’s students and staff were evacuated after a message was found scrawled on a bathroom mirror stating a bomb would go off at 1:45 p.m.

The school was re-opened the next day.




Pre-reg starts for new program

Pre-registration started for Mission’s proposed public traditional school, and some parents sacrificed hours of sleep to ensure their children would be included if the academy proceeded.

Mission parent Kelly Dalzell was the first in line at the school board administration office on Fourth Avenue, and said she arrived shortly after 3 a.m.

“I wanted to make sure my kids get into a traditional school,” she said, and cited the emphasis on academics and structure were what drew her to the idea.


Missing person case turned over to IHIT

The search for 18-year-old Rachel Pernosky was called off and the file handed to homicide investigators after her body was found in Chilliwack.

The Mission teen was last seen around 12:30 a.m. at her home in the 7700 block of Kite Street. Her cellphone and purse were still in the house.

Police said the attack was not random, but didn’t have any suspects.


Pedestrian walkway built

Construction for a $2.3 million pedestrian walkway to the Junction from Lougheed Highway and Highway 11 started.

The much-demanded path had been a priority project for previous councils, but only this year had the Ministry of Transportation agreed to spend the money.

The walkway was already high on the ministry’s list, and with a little push, it was moved to the top, said then-MLA Randy Hawes.




Building permit issued

District of Mission followed orders from the B.C. Supreme court to issue a building permit for a medical clinic and pharmacy on First Avenue.

Last year council passed a bylaw prohibiting pharmacies and medical clinics in the downtown core, which prompted legal action from numbered company 0773184 B.C. Ltd.

The company had purchased the property at 33133 First Ave. before the zoning changed and said the district was aware of its intended use and received assurances such an operation was allowed, according to statements filed in court.


School district has $3.9M deficit

Mission Public Schools faced a $3.9 million deficit, and said the debt would be retired within three years.

Originally, a $1.2-million deficit was reported to the board of trustees, but further investigation into the budget revealed the higher number.


Big win for Jepsen at Junos

Carly Rae Jepsen cleaned up at the Juno Awards and returned home with three trophies.

The Mission singer, dressed in a yellow gown and white shoes, picked up the top Canadian music awards in Regina, Sask. for Album of the Year, Pop Album of the Year (Kiss), and Single of the Year (Call Me Maybe).

The 27-year-old who was nominated for five awards, thanked many people during her acceptance speech, especially her dad, who had accompanied her to the big event.




Trustees approve schools of choice

Mission school board trustees supported transforming Edwin S. Richards elementary into a fine arts centre and Hillside elementary into a Kindergarten to Grade 6 traditional school. The change was aimed at keeping students in the Mission school district and preventing school closures.

Fifteen of the 23 empty classrooms in the urban area were at Hillside, ESR and Windebank.

Enrolment numbers supported a traditional school at Hillside. ESR, which had been testing an art-based curriculum since 2011, already had a waiting list.


Police forces swoop on grow ops in rural Mission

Some of the most state-of-the-art grow ops ever discovered were part of a major drug bust in Mission.

More than 10,000 marijuana plants at four rural Mission properties were discovered when the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C. executed search warrants.

One of the properties in the 13000 block of De Graff Road, was concealed in an underground bunker disguised as a horse paddock. Other properties raided were in the 10000 and 14000 blocks of Sylvester Road, the 12000 block of Dewdney Trunk Road and another in Langley.

In addition to the marijuana plants, police also seized 200 pounds of dried marijuana, estimated to be worth $10 million.

Four men in their 30s were arrested and taken into custody.


Liberals sweep Mission

The BC Liberals held onto Maple Ridge-Mission and Abbotsford-Mission ridings as Christy Clark led her party to a come-from-behind victory in the provincial election.

Incumbent Marc Dalton won the Maple Ridge-Mission riding with 8,842 votes. His closest competitor, BC New Democrat Mike Bocking, received 7,310 votes.

BC Liberal Simon Gibson captured his riding with 51 per cent of the votes. NDP’s Preet Rai finished in second place.


Building will be demolished

The Willows apartments on Third Avenue was destroyed by fire, which left close to 50 people without homes.

The fire started on the top floor and caused about $2.8 million in damages.

Numerous residents and their pets were rescued, but no injuries were reported. Several residents were not even aware the building was ablaze, and firefighters had to break down doors to rouse people from their sleep. The 50-year-old building provided limited access to firefighters and didn’t have a sprinkler system.


Developer files lawsuit against feds

Carhoun and Sons Enterprises Ltd. (CSE) started court action against the federal government over lengthy delays in plans to develop about 33 acres at the corner of Lougheed Highway and Wren Street.

It took the company nearly three years to receive the necessary environmental approvals to proceed with the project, which has forced CSE to put the property up in a court-ordered sale.

CSE said in the claim that the delays were excessive, unreasonable and unlawful, and accused Fisheries and Oceans Canada (FOC) of exhibiting bias, bad faith, and malfeasance which adversely impacted the financial position of CSE as well as its associated companies and shareholders.

CSE began acquiring property in the area in 1987 and by 2009, owned six contiguous parcels, totalling 33.48 acres. The company’s intentions to build a large commercial development in the area were supported by the municipality, but needed environmental approval because two ravines, which were created by storm water discharge from the district, are on the property.

Because the ravines had to be filled, environmental assessments had to be undertaken and approvals from FOC obtained.

CSE began the process in 2009 and received FOC approval in 2012. The document filed in court gives examples of delays and notes the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act screening, which on average took 88.7 days to complete in the years 2004, 2005, and 2006, took 546 days for the CSE file.



Former mayor passes away

The man who guided Mission before and after amalgamation passed away.

Neville Cox served as mayor of Mission for three years after the Town of Mission merged with the District of Mission in 1970. He was reeve of the district from 1968-1970. He was also instrumental in construction of the Abbotsford-Mission bridge.

He was made a Freeman of the City in 1979, owned a restaurant called the River Boat Inn, wrote columns for this newspaper and numerous other publications, and worked as the executive director of Mission Memorial Hospital from its opening in 1965 until he retired in 1988.

But it was for his passionate speeches on Remembrance Day that many in Mission will remember him. He gave his Thoughts of Remembrance for 32 consecutive years, and his easy-going, conversational style of the speech made it one of the highlights of the ceremony.

Cox was born Dec. 29, 1925 in Chislehurst, Kent, England and grew up there. After matriculation in 1939, he eventually enlisted in the British Navy and served aboard the HMS Argonaut as a petty officer and radar technician from 1944 until 1947. He emigrated to Canada in 1957 with his wife and two daughters, first to Kimberly, then Mission in 1965.


Surakkas claim daughter’s right to live was deprived

The Supreme court granted approval to allow the Surakka family to proceed with a charter case lawsuit claiming the rights of their daughter, Lisa Cheryl Dudley, were violated when police failed to properly investigate a shots fired call in 2008.

Dudley and her boyfriend Guthrie McKay were shot in their rural home on Greenwood Drive in 2008, which according to a statement of facts entered in court last year, had housed a marijuana grow operation.

McKay was pronounced dead on the scene, while Dudley, who was shot twice in the neck, was paralyzed from her injuries. She survived four days inside the house before she was found by a neighbour. She died en-route to hospital.

The police officers who responded to the shots fired call patrolled the area, but didn’t leave their vehicles or speak to the complainant.

They also didn’t follow up with the case.


Leave some areas open for hunting: speakers

Proposed changes to Mission’s firearms discharge bylaw were soundly criticized by a large crowd of mostly hunters.

Mission council contemplated banning all shooting throughout the municipality, except at the Mission and District Rod and Gun Club.

The primary issue, according to Mayor Ted Adlem, was policing costs.

The interpretive forest is located on the west side of Stave Lake, near the Zajac Ranch for Children, and close to the proposed Tim Hortons Children’s Foundation camp.

Adlem said many people will not go into that region because of the number of individuals shooting guns and the associated litter left behind.

The hunters who spoke said they are not the ones causing the problems, and this proposed bylaw change would not solve the trouble.



Downtown Action Plan adopted

Mission council adopted the Downtown Action Plan. The plan outlined five fundamentals and 10 big moves to improve and revitalize the area.

The five fundamental elements are:

1. An interconnected, multi-transportation network for pedestrians, cyclists, motorists and transit riders.

2. A mix of high-density land uses and activity nodes that can generate a strong customer base.

3. High-quality public realm, parks and open spaces to provide a pedestrian-friendly environment and encourage people to spend time in the area.

4. Social needs and community issues need to be addressed in order to create a welcoming environment for everyone.

5. Create economic conditions for successful development.

The plan’s 10 big moves aim to be a catalyst for change are:

1. First is First: Taking back ownership and control of First Avenue, which includes re-routing truck traffic.

2. Welton Street Pedestrian Spine: Enhancing public open spaces and connecting pedestrian paths to key destinations downtown.

3. Bring cultural, educational, and civic uses downtown: This combination would support a diversity of people and activities.

4. Improve the economics of downtown development: Introducing development regulations and incentives to improve the area and business opportunities.

5. Downtown Living: Increase the number of area residents.

6. A welcoming and family friendly downtown: Create an environment people will want to spend time in, and minimizing negative behaviour/activities.

7. Downtown community green: Creating a public park to provide green space.

8. Safety and security: Improve actual and perceived problems.

9. Vacant no more: Filling vacant sites or storefronts with community gardens, arts displays or other improvements.

10. Downtown gateways: to emphasize visitors are entering downtown.


Controversial fees reversed

Twenty-three property owners had their Public Safety Inspection Team (PSIT) fees reversed after district staff reviewed all open files.

The number seemed low for some councillors, after Fire Chief Bob Cannon, who finished the process, explained the legal review involved lawyers who classified each case as strong or weak if it went to court.

PSIT and the bylaw governing it have been controversial since its 2008 inception. The legislation was created to address concerns regarding clandestine drug labs and marijuana grow operations, allowing the district to penalize property owners whose homes were found to be altered in an unsafe way. Owners whose homes were suspected of housing illegal substances were charged $4,900 for the inspection and a $300 administration fee. Additional remediation inspections were $250.

Some owners whose homes were searched challenged the high fees and threatened the district with legal action.

Before the practice was halted in 2011, the team inspected 499 properties, with 283 of them identified as a controlled substance property. PSIT initiated 170 of those inspections based on high hydro consumption rates, while the rest were brought forward by police. The district did not review the RCMP-led files.

Of the 170 files, 74 were closed as all the fees were paid and remediation orders completed, leaving 96 for review.



Dealing with a weedy problem

Mission council voted to prohibit licensed marijuana producing operations within the District of Mission borders, but council could consider a site specific application if the proposal benefited local taxpayers.

Each application could be brought forward on a site specific basis, said Barclay Pitkethly, deputy director of development services, who will leave the “taxpayer benefits” to council’s discretion.

District staff sought input from council after receiving numerous inquiries from potential licensed marijuana producers. Pitkethly also noted a new federal condition requires prospective operators to notify local government, including fire and police services, of their operation.


50/50 spilt for voluntary water meters

Mission council approved a voluntary metering program with interested residents paying 50 per cent of the installation costs, and the district retaining ownership of the meters.

But before staff can proceed with the next steps, council needs to approve the minutes of the meeting, said Mission’s director of engineering and public works, Rick Bomhof, noting councillors can still change their minds.



Mission Hells Angels linked to Spain bust

Four men with links to the Mission and Haney chapters of the Hells Angels were arrested in Spain.

B.C.’s anti-gang unit confirmed that Mission full-patch member Jason Cyrus Arkinstall and Haney full-patch member Chad John Wilson were arrested by Spain’s National Police along with Scott Smitna and Michael Dryborough.

Spanish police alleged the men were involved in smuggling 500 kilograms of cocaine into the country. A statement from Spanish police said the investigation began after authorities were tipped off about a group of Canadian Hells Angels who were planning to ship cocaine from Columbia to Spain by sailboat.

Police began tracking the operation on July 30 and followed three of the Hells Angels to Madrid and Galicia, where they allegedly finalized details of the transaction.

Two vans filled with cocaine, a SUV, mobile home, four mobile phones and two encrypted smartphones were seized by police.


Main Games ceremonies at Mission Raceway Park

Mission council approved a $70,000 expense for a large tent to host the B.C. Winter Games’ opening and closing ceremonies.

Despite the price tag, most councillors agreed it would be the most convenient and provide the best experience for athletes and volunteers.

But before the district hands over any money, the B.C. Winter Games Committee will make a formal request for more funding from the provincial government and will submit a revised budget to the B.C. Games Society to include the cost of the tent.


Corralling medical pot grows

Mission prepared a policy in anticipation of the changes Ottawa is making to its medical marijuana grow licenses, scheduled to come into effect April 2014.

Commercial marijuana producers would only be able to set up an operation on industrial or Agricultural Land Reserve areas in Mission in the spring. But even if the right location was identified, the applicant would have to apply for a comprehensive development zoning to allow such a use, which would trigger a public process and leave the decision in the hands of council.

District staff identified a few dozen locations that would meet the minimal parcel size (9.8 acres for industrial lands and 19 acres for ALR) and minimal setbacks (23 feet for industrial and 98.5 feet for ALR).


New development incentives

The District of Mission released a new and aggressive incentive program to encourage and accelerate private investment and improvement projects in the Mission City Downtown Action Plan area, which is roughly from Murray Street to the east to Grand Street to the west, and from North Railway Avenue to Second Avenue, including the former Bellevue Hotel property.

The incentives include tax exemptions, municipal fee reductions, breaks in the community amenity contribution, relaxed density and parking regulations, and an increase in district services, such as priority processing, free land title searches and waiving public hearing requirements for three years.

The incentives would apply to building permits received before Dec. 31, 2016 for projects that will be completed by Dec. 31, 2018.




Cat shelter may close

Mission’s only cat shelter threatened to close before the end of the year after the Fraser Valley Humane Society (FVHS) revealed funding and donations were at an all-time low.

The society needed at least $8,000 a month to operate, but there was only $2,000 in the bank. This wasn’t the first time the non-profit organization had faced this challenge, but its executive director, Celia Durst, said it could be the last.

Mission council refused last month to explore the idea of working with other animal control groups to establish a new facility for unwanted pets.

Staff wages took up $5,000 of the group’s $8,000 monthly budget. Durst is the only full-time employee, and there are two part-time helpers as well. Wages were reduced from last year, and the executive director’s pay, which did not include benefits, has been frozen for four years.

The society’s sales revenue, which included adoptions, membership fees, etc., increased by seven per cent this year (from $37,494 in 2011-2012 to $40,221 from 2012-2013), but its grants and gaming revenue decreased by 14 per cent compared to last year (from $31,804 to $27,285), and donations were down 20 per cent (from $38,575 to $30,818).

They also owed $5,000 in vet bills.


Meeting in the middle

Mission Public Schools began a process to find out why students have been leaving the school district since a middle school model was introduced three years ago, and if parents and students wanted to reconfigure the current setting.

The question asked was if the current middle school model should continue, or if two secondary schools should be converted to middle schools, leaving one high school for students in Grades 10-12.

Under school district 75’s current configuration, there are 12 elementary schools and three high schools. There are middles schools for Grades 7,8, and 9 students within each secondary institution.

In the 2012-13 school year, there were 782 Grade 7-12 students at Heritage Park Secondary, 1,078 students at Mission Secondary, and 823 students at Hatzic Secondary.



A bomb threat closed Christine Morrison School. A passerby alerted RCMP after noticing the message on the back wall of the McRae Avenue facility.

Mission Public School’s district assistant superintendent Randy Huth said the school was shut because the message was a “direct threat to the safety and well-being of staff and students.”

Police confirmed it was a bomb threat. A bomb profile dog was called out, and didn’t find anything suspicious.


B.C. Winter Games countdown is on

The torch-lighting ceremony for the upcoming B.C. Winter Games (Feb. 20-23, 2014) was held at the Mission Leisure Centre. The torch was carried in by Mission resident and former Olympic speed skater Eden Donatelli-Green. Abbotsford-Mission MLA Simon Gibson used the torch to light the cauldron.


Guilty plea in 2008 murders surprises family

The family of murder victim Lisa Dudley was surprised and disappointed when the third man charged with her murder pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter in Vancouver Supreme Court.

Justin Andrew MacKinnon, originally charged with two counts of first degree murder, pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter. He was sentenced to seven years in jail, minus time served.

Dudley and McKay were shot in their Greenwood Drive home in rural Mission more than five years ago. McKay was pronounced dead on the scene, while Dudley, who was shot twice in the neck, was paralyzed from her injuries. She survived four days inside the house before she was found by a neighbour. She died on the way to hospital.





Family homeless after morning fire

A family of four was left homeless after an early morning fire destroyed their Bell Street house in Stave Falls.

The fire started around 4 a.m. in the garage and spread to the sun deck and the roof. Investigators said the fire was not suspicious but could not determine the cause because of the amount of destruction.

Katelyn Gagnon, her common law husband Ryan, and their two-year-old son escaped uninjured. Their six-year-old son was sleeping at a friend’s house when the fire occurred.

Support poured in to help the family who did not have insurance to cover their losses. A friend offered a one-bedroom loft to get the family through the holiday season and friends, family, and strangers offered donations.


District purchases downtown property

The District of Mission purchased nearly a block of property in downtown Mission with the goal of attracting a university to the area and stimulating growth.

Mission purchased 7337 Welton St. – the former Buy-Low building – for $1.95 million and will take possession at the end of January.

Mayor Ted Adlem said he had several discussions with University of the Fraser Valley administrators about relocating, but notes the move is also subject to approval from the provincial government.

Regardless of whether or not UFV leaves its current facility at Heritage Park Centre, the newly acquired district property will still be used as a cultural, educational or civic facility, as outlined in the district’s Downtown Action Plan.