Neighbour dispute over Summerland mushroom farm leads to criminal charges

Click to play video: 'Mushrooming problems between neighbours in Summerland'
Mushrooming problems between neighbours in Summerland
WATCH (June 7, 2019): Mushrooming problems between neighbours in Summerland. Jules Knox reports. – Jun 7, 2019

A simmering neighbour dispute over a Summerland mushroom farm has resulted in criminal charges being laid.

In June, Brad Besler complained of the smell coming from the What the Fungus farm on Garnet Valley road.

“It is so rancid, literally in seconds you’re gagging and wanting to get out of there,” he told Global News at the time.

Besler put up a sign detailing his concerns, arguing that some of the farm’s buildings aren’t properly permitted.

“They’ve built into our setbacks,” Besler said. “It’s supposed to be 30 metres minimum, right up to our property line.”

READ MORE: Okanagan’s mushroom farm expands

Property owner and mushroom farm shareholder Thor Clausen said the building in question is a storage room for wood chips, not a mushroom barn.

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That means it only needs to be about five metres back from the property line, he added.

Clausen claimed his neighbours harassed his staff and police responded on multiple occasions.

“They have been playing vulgar rap music, swearing, cursing and intimidating our employees,” he said.

Now, Brad and Darren Besler have been formally charged with mischief “by willfully obstructing, interrupting or interfering with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of the property of Thor Clausen,” according to court documents.

The mischief is alleged to have occurred between June 2 and 24.

The pair will appear in Penticton provincial court on August 7.

When reached by phone for comment, Clausen said he is not relieved criminal charges have been laid in the case as the behavior hasn’t stopped.

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“They’re continuing with other forms of harassment. I expect this to continue,” he said.

“We wake up with anxiety every day.”

Brad Besler said he denies all of the allegations and will vigorously fight to defend himself in court.

“There is so much inaccurate information and hearsay that the RCMP took, that Thor told them, that they didn’t even bother to verify if it was true or anything,” he said.

He also denies continuing to harass his neighbours.

“After the council meeting where their variance was accepted, there has not been one word to anyone on that side of the fence.”

“We will have to refrain from providing any further details about the allegations being made, as the matter is now before the courts,” said Penticton RCMP spokesperson James Grandy in an email.

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In June, the District of Summerland supported the fungus farm by unanimously voting to grant it a development variance permit for the buildings constructed within the setback.

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Clausen has operated the mushroom growing business since 2014. He uses unique growing practices, utilizing wood chips instead of manure.

“What’s unique is how we do it. We grow outside, we change our mushrooms as the seasons change so we don’t have big, climate-controlled barns. We’re very energy conserving,” he said.

Clausen said the farm supplies 50 of the top restaurants in the Okanagan valley with the locally grown mushrooms, as well as selling direct to consumer at the farmer’s market.


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