Trial set for Chilliwack's largest ever grow-op

Lloyd McConnell will go to trial Sept. 15 for the massive grow-op discovered in an underground bunker on his Nixon Road property in 2009. - Submitted
Lloyd McConnell will go to trial Sept. 15 for the massive grow-op discovered in an underground bunker on his Nixon Road property in 2009.
— image credit: Submitted

Four years ago, city hall didn’t buy the innocent victim story from the owner of a Nixon Road property where the largest marijuana grow operation in Chilliwack RCMP history was found.

Next month, Lloyd Allan McConnell will have to see how his oblivious-land-owner story flies in BC Supreme Court.

Last week his trial was scheduled to begin Sept. 15 in Chilliwack.

McConnell owned the property where, in September 2009, Mounties found more than 10,000 marijuana plants in an underground bunker.

Police said a conservative estimate of the crop was $3 million, and it was “the largest, most sophisticated” grow op they had ever seen.

The grow-op was defended by an elaborate security system, which included rigged  entrances to shoot bear spray at intruders.

There was also a sub-floor built to conceal an elevator-style hydraulic lift that allowed for access to the bunker, and inside the bunker there were four separate growing rooms.

Arrested at the scene was 64-year-old Darryl Francis Ness who was charged, convicted and handed a conditional sentence for his role in the grow-op.

In the 2012 trial, Crown counsel Michael LeDressay painted a picture of a “monstrous criminal enterprise.”

Ness’s lawyer said his client was in bad health, dire financial straights and hadn’t profited from the grow-op other than obtaining free rent to live on the property.

Justice William Grist didn’t buy the innocent caretaker argument, but he agreed Ness, a non-violent offender with no criminal history, was a good candidate or a conditional sentence.

The property’s owner was in front of Chilliwack city council in July 2010 for a show-cause hearing that ended with a notice filed on the property’s title due to hazardous health and safety conditions in the home on the property.

McConnell’s lawyer told city council his client hadn’t received formal notice of what was required for compliance. Gaetz read from a letter sent to McConnell nearly a year prior that outlined precisely what was required. She added the city had little tolerance for grow-ops.

“What part of that doesn’t your client understand?” she asked.

That’s when lawyer Nathan Muirhead said McConnell was “an innocent victim” with regard to the grow-op.

But Gaetz said that was irrelevant because of a bylaw that requires owners to inspect properties every two months or they are considered complicit.

Police said the massive Nixon Road grow-op took a toll on the surrounding environment as chemical were spilled at the site, and operators had run an irrigation line from nearby Elk Creek, a fish-bearing stream.

Mounties estimated the grow-op stole more than $400,000 of electricity to power the operation.

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