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Raided drug house to be inspected

Five people were arrested at the rental property March 6. - The News/Files
Five people were arrested at the rental property March 6.
— image credit: The News/Files

A heritage house, currently occupied by drug-dealing squatters and managed by a Maple Ridge councillor, will be inspected by district staff Friday for the second time in less than a year.

The property at 22309 St. Anne Avenue was raided by police in March 2013 for the third time in less than a year.

Two illegal suites were discovered during the raid and “unauthorized tenants” were turfed out.

Last week, Ridge Meadows RCMP raided the house for a fourth time since June 2012 and found nothing had changed. Squatters were still occupying the illegal suites and dealing drugs out of the property. A man and woman are being investigated on allegations of drug trafficking after crack cocaine and heroin was found.

“We are currently investigating the same or similar bylaw and building infractions on the site,” said bylaws director Liz Holitzki.

Owned by Yang Lee Liu, the heritage house and two neighbouring properties have been repeatedly targeted by the district for the past three years.

In addition to four search warrants by RCMP, Holitzki’s department has three separate “untidy premises” files for the properties, managed by Coun. Al Hogarth, a former mayor of Maple Ridge.

Hogarth claims he is only responsible for the front section of the house, which is occupied by a legal tenant who is being intimidated by other people.

The rest of people are squatters, who’ve been trespassing since March 2013, which was the last time Hogarth visited the property.

“They had broken back in after I had it all locked up,” he said.

“One tenant was meant to be gone six months ago. It never did get boarded up and that’s not my fault. I told the landlord to take care of it.”

The squatters arrested during last week’s raid are back, Hogarth added, saying he was threatened with a gun during his last visit to the property.

“I haven’t been in there. I wasn’t going to walk in there alone,” he said.

Hogarth said police can enforce a trespassing law, but need cooperation from the owner.

“I’ve told [the police] I’m not involved, but they keep phoning me to help. I’ve got one legal tenant in that property, not five, not 10,” Hogarth said.

“To me, it’s clearly trespassing. My biggest wish for me, the municipality and the neighbourhood is for our criminal justice system to do something, rather than just do their normal catch-and-release.”

Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin has assured the neighbourhood that council will deal with the properties, which are part of a rezoning application for a condo development.

Daykin called the owner Thursday and expressed his “unhappiness” and displeasure with the situation.

“It puts all of us in a difficult spot,” he said.

Related editorial: Quiet on council

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