Pioneer farmer fights against land development in Surrey
Zaklan Heritage Farm was founded in 1928 and still stands today. Farmer George Zaklan is trying to protect his land from future development by calling for heritage and ecological property tax exemptions. (PHOTO COURTESY OF ZAKLAN HERITAGE FARM)
One of Surrey’s pioneer farming families is calling for property tax exemptions for lands with ecological or heritage value to prevent them from being sold for development.
George Zaklan’s family first moved into their Surrey farm in 1928, purchasing the property for $10 per acre.
His 15-acre property on 84th Avenue, he said, is now worth millions per acre — half of the original land was sold off — with fruits and vegetables regularly planted among the old farm buildings that still stand today.
“We have a 1938 outdoor toilet, still functioning. We have a smokehouse from the 1930s. A 1920s house beautifully maintained, a garage built on the property line when all the materials came in by horse and wagon,” he said.
“We have a barn, which was once considered the largest around — modest by today’s standards — but still maintained.”
While taxes on agricultural property is relatively cheap compared to residential areas, Zaklan wants a break from BC Assessment in exchange for maintaining the land’s ecological and heritage value.
“If a person has all this land and has kept it a number of years, clearly profit is not a motive,” he said.
“If I decide to sell it, someone from Hong Kong will buy it and he’ll remove everything from the site, remove the top soil and put in high rises. I’d rather not go that way.”
Coun. Barbara Steele, Surrey heritage committee chairwoman, couldn’t be reached by press time, but Zaklan said her response was positive and he’s been told the committee would reach out to the province for potential changes.
Former Surrey mayor Bob Bose, also from a pioneer family, recently sold his 150-acre farm.
He agrees with Zaklan’s idea, but said it’s unlikely to succeed unless other municipalities jump on board through the Union of B.C. Municipalities.
“Eventually, the landowners that may want to protect it are unable to carry the tax loads and are forced to liquidate their assets,” he said.
“If (Mayor) Dianne Watts and her crew are serious, they would start pushing for legislative change that would enable the preservation of heritage and environmentally sensitive areas.”