Chilliwack year in review 2016

Real estate and the related topic of homelessness were among the most prominent subjects of 2016 in Chilliwack. - File
Real estate and the related topic of homelessness were among the most prominent subjects of 2016 in Chilliwack.
— image credit: File

January 7

This year kicked off with the shocking news—good or bad, depending on the point of view—for single-family homeowners that their property values were up between five and 15 per cent.

Owners of townhouses and condominiums, however, saw much smaller increases in home values.

The average residential increase across all properties in Chilliwack was 5.35 per cent, something that came as no surprise to those in the real estate business who saw a kick-off to a year to end all years for the Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board.


January 14

Speaking of assessments, the owners of one local business were shocked to see a 409 per cent increase in their property value, which paled in comparison to the 900-plus per cent increase in assessments of two neighbouring business properties.

“It’s basically killing me,” Nigel Argyle, owner along with this wife Joan, of Argyle’s Garden Market in Popkum said. “It’s ridiculous.”

The land at their garden centre at 52905 Yale Road went from a valuation of $241,000 in 2015 year to $1.23 million in 2016.

But the biggest jump of all, and possibly part of the reason behind the focus on this area at the roundabout was the closed Minter Gardens property, which jumped from a value of $364,100 to $3.8 million, a 947 per cent increase. Total assessment was at $5 million, which made some sense. Colliers Canada had the property for sale at $5.95 million.

After the Times reported on this story, the Argyles’ visited the BC Assessment office in Abbotsford and were told their property assessment would drop from $1.398 million to $751,000


January 14

Tragedy struck early in the year as two Chilliwack Secondary School students, Connor Dash and Gerritt Niessen, died after the pickup truck they were in drove off Ballam Road into the Fraser River.

The stretch of road next to the river faced scrutiny as being too dangerous.

“Seeing other cars on the river bottom would suggest to me this happens more often, and I would hate to see the terrible tragedy of early Sunday morning reoccur,” City of Chilliwack Coun. Chris Kloot said.

Since the incident, the road has been paved and barriers erected.


January 28

The disruptive sound of gunfire from the RCMP’s Pacific Regional Training Centre (PRTC), long the bane of the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) students and faculty, Vedder Crossing residential neighbours and Rotary Trail users, was finally scheduled to end as a new facility was announced.

“This has been a long time coming,” said Supt. Michel Legault, officer in charge of PRTC said about the $19 million in federal dollars to build the new indoor firing range.

Construction began later in the year and the new facility has since opened.


February 11

A BC Supreme Court justice declined to hand a dangerous offender designation to a deaf man with an extensive violent criminal past, which culminated in the killing of a transgendered person in Chilliwack five years prior. Steven Frederickson was, however, handed a long-term offender designation of the maximum length of 10 years in addition to a 10-year prison sentence for the 2010 manslaughter conviction of his then roommate, Robert-Jan Planje.


February 25

Yousef Hadla, Amena Kholane and their two boys, Faras, 7, and Yaman, 5, were the first of many Syrian refugee families to arrive in Chilliwack.

Yousef and his family arrived on Feb. 6, sponsored privately through the so-called “Group of Five” provision by local family Marty and Kristy van den Bosch.


March 3

Six young men, six dairy farm corporate directors and the company itself, Chilliwack Cattle Sales Ltd., faced 20 animal cruelty charges nearly two years after alleged incidents were recorded by farm animal protection group Mercy for Animals using undercover video.

The story garnered international attention for highlighting “egregious and sadistic cruelty” at the largest dairy farm in Canada.


March 10

Chilliwack’s first homicide of the year led to a first-degree murder charge for 19-year-old Clayton Warkentin accused in the killing of his mother in Yarrow on Feb. 24.

Warkentin was arrested on March 4 without incident, and appeared looking sullen and tired in court in Chilliwack on March 7.


March 17

A battle was brewing on the Soowahlie Indian Band reserve near Cultus Lake as a non-aboriginal woman wanted Chilliwack developer Larry Les to build hundreds of homes with 99-year leases all with the blessing of the federal government, and despite the firm opposition of the chief, band council and community members.

Les’s plan for the development was eventually shut down.


April 14

The Chilliwack presence in Vimy, France, in April 2017 at the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge will be powerful in three coincidental ways.

Three Chilliwack representatives—an amateur poet, a porcelain artist, and a plant propagating nursery—are all independently involved in the Vimy Foundation’s project to repatriate the so-called Vimy Oaks to France.

Tony Peneff, Linda Phelps and Mosterman Plants out of Greendale all have a part in the important ceremony, if in very distinct ways.


April 21

Police had few details and were seeking witnesses and a suspect in the city’s second homicide of the year.

The victim identified in the shooting in a Princess Avenue apartment was 33-year-old David Williams of Chilliwack. IHIT first called the incident “targeted” but at a press conference later IHIT media relations officer Sgt. Stephanie Ashton changed that, saying the shooting “did not appear to be random.”


May 5

A 63-year-old man was charged with second degree murder after a stabbing death at Salish Plaza downtown Chilliwack on May 3.

The homicide was the third of the year in the city. Charged in the killing of Rob Splitt was Gerald Leslie Dolman. A preliminary inquiry in Dolman’s case is scheduled to begin Jan. 5, 2017 in BC Supreme Court in Chilliwack.


May 19

A young man was about to learn the perils of ill-advised social media posts as he faced trial for a vicious stabbing downtown Chilliwack in April 2015.

Jack Stanley Daniel James, 23, faced one count of aggravated assault alongside co-accused Corey Nahanee, 22, and Leonard Nahanee, 28, for an alleged attack on Cody Fleck on April 10, 2015 that left Fleck with deep stab wounds on his neck and back.

Mid-trial, later in June, James and Corey Nahanee pleaded guilty and were later sentenced to jail time.


May 19

Chilliwack RCMP Supt. Deanne Burleigh came to Chilliwack city council to give an update on crime in the city, and the news wasn’t good.

Property crime is up 33 per cent, Burleigh said. Auto theft is up 38 per cent. Theft from vehicles is up 57 per cent. And weapons offences are up 114 per cent.


May 26

Readers got a first glimpse into the rental crisis facing Chilliwack in part one of a two-part series addressing the subject.

The trickle-down effect of the red-hot real estate market in Vancouver meant prices and sales continued to rise locally, further pushing up evictions due of sales, but also pushing up rents and increasing the competition for an already scant supply.

This story will continue well into 2017.


June 9

With real estate and homelessness front-and-centre, the announcement of an Aboriginal-themed mixed-use, mixed-income housing project was welcomed.

It was early days for the Mamele’Awt Qweesome Housing Society affordable housing project, but the organization had a piece of land on Yale Road near the old UFV campus earmarked. They would eventually get the go-ahead for the piece of land and the funding from BC Housing for the project later in the year.


June 23

Pressure on southside schools in Chilliwack remained a huge problem at the end of the 2015/2016 school year with capacity levels reaching new heights.

Topping the list was Promontory Heights Elementary at 186 per cent capacity, Evans Elementary at 141 per cent and Vedder Elementary at 131 per cent.

“We desperately need a new school on the south side,” Chilliwack School District board chair Silvia Dyck said.


June 30

Capitalizing on the current craze, and a paucity of producers in the eastern Fraser Valley, Chilliwack’s newest craft brewery, Chaos & Solace opened on Mill Street downtown, while the city’s established brewery, Old Yale, opened its doors in an expanded facility.

Both have stylishly appointed tasting rooms and were greeted heartily by happy beer lovers.


July 21

A pair accused in Chilliwack’s fourth homicide of the year appeared in Chilliwack court.

David James McKay, 37, faced one count of murder and Cydnie Markel-Rempel, 21, faced one of manslaughter for the July 13 killing of John “Mikey” Anderson at a drug house near Bernard Elementary.

The files against the pair have now been severed, and both are next due in court Jan. 10, 2017.


July 28

A BC Supreme Court decision prompted the City of Chilliwack to amend its parks bylaw to allow homeless people to camp in municipal parks.

Camping in public parks hadn’t been an issue locally, but city council decided to proactively make the change to the bylaw that forbade overnight camping because it was unconstitutional.

The amended bylaw came with restrictions that disallows setting up structures during the day or within five metres of pathways, playgrounds, ponds and other park amenities.


August 11

Long rumoured, and even confirmed off the record, official word came that Molson Coors would move its Vancouver brewery to a site in Chilliwack.

Later in the year construction began on the brewery on land zoned Agricultural Food Processing at Highway 1 and the Yale/Vedder overpass.


September 1

As kids prepared to go back to school, hundreds of extra students were heading to already oversubscribed schools making the pressure on teachers and facilities greater than ever.

With a steady increase in enrolment in the 2.5 per cent range over the last five years, as many as 300 new students were expected to need spots in Chilliwack.


September 8

A youth counsellor at an aboriginal healing centre in the Chilliwack River Valley was sentenced to two years in jail followed by three years probation for the sexual assault and sexual interference of a person under 16 for incidents in 2011.

“This was a person who was supposed to be a person of trust,” Crown counsel Anna Tosso said of the accused Darren Justice.


September 22

City council decided to go ahead and apply for a BC Supreme Court injunction to evict a large group of entrenched homeless individuals from the Empress Lane area downtown.

Leading up to the decision, more and more people had gathered in the expanse of parking lots behind Yale Road businesses in the area bounded by Princess Avenue, Nowell Street, and Young Road.


September 29

The state of turmoil and conflict at the Chilliwack Airport heaved on with at least one tenant leaving and, by September, a defamation lawsuit from the management company that runs the embattled pitstop for pilots.

Magnum Management, owner Bryan Kirkness and airport manager Garry Atkins filed suit in BC Supreme Court against the Chilliwack Airport Tenants Association (CATA), the Chilliwack Airport Coffee Shop, its owners and various other tenants of the airport.

Atkins said the suit was launched because they have been “unfairly maligned” and CATA has spread misinformation they see as harmful.


October 13

In a case called “very difficult” and “troubling” by the judge, and a “no-win” situation by the defendants, the BC Supreme Court ruled Oct. 12 in favour of the City of Chilliwack’s application for an injunction to clear out a downtown homeless camp.


October 20

A controversial vigilante group arrived in Chilliwack, and their actions led to a charge of child luring against a 67-year-old man.

The charge is in connection with an Oct. 7 incident when Don Putt of Chilliwack showed up at the McDonald’s restaurant in Vedder Crossing, expecting to meet a 12-year-old boy.

Instead, he met members of the Fraser Valley chapter of Creep Catchers, a group of vigilantes who pose as underage boys and girls on dating websites, arrange meetings, film those meetings and then shame the alleged offenders on social media.

Putt pleaded guilty on Dec. 12 and was sentenced to six months in jail.


November 3

Property taxes are slated to increase by 3.5 per cent next year, the biggest hike in several years, according to the City of Chilliwack’s preliminary draft 2017 financial plan presented to city council.

The 3.5 tax increase proposed is the highest since 2010.


November 24

Coun. Jason Lum replaced Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz at the helm of the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) board of directors.

Lum and others lauded the past work of Gaetz, but there was some tension at the table leading up to the vote, including conflict between Gaetz and Hope Mayor Wilfried Vicktor over comments Gaetz made about homeless people in the region.

Lum was then nominated to run for board chair by Gaetz, and was elected in a vote over Vicktor.


December 22

On Dec. 19, 22-year-old Megan Voth was handed the keys to a totally refurbished 2006 Toyota Corolla in the 13th Annual Christmas Car Giveaway, a promotion of Fix Auto, Valley Toyota, the Chilliwack Times, Simpson Auto, HUB Insurance, Big O Tires and NAPA Auto Parts.


December 22

Receiving national and even international attention, it was the beginning of the end of the Chilliwack Cattle Sales cow abuse case as the company received fines of $75,000 for three counts and director Wesley Kooyman received a fine of $75,000.

The company and Kooyman pleaded guilty to the four charges that came after an animal rights group filmed undercover abuse of cows on the night shift by young employees.

The Kooyman family accepted the judgment and vowed to make changes. Some of the young men are scheduled to plead guilty in the new year while yet others face a trial.


December 29

After 31 years, the Chilliwack Times  ceased publication.


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