The mystery plot of land that Trans Mountain pipeline company needs to access in North Langley wasn’t sold off at auction decades ago because Langley Township didn’t know it existed until 2016.
Trans Mountain has been trying to trace the heirs of James C. Kavanagh so it can negotiate access to two small pieces of property, both bisected by the Canadian National Railway in northern Walnut Grove. The land access is needed for the oil pipeline expansion project.
The company has run into problems because Kavanagh, a financier and hotelier who made his fortune in Manitoba in the 18oos, died in 1922.
The pipeline firm has used genealogical research to find Kavanagh’s living descendents to try to locate an heir to the land.
Since no one has been paying property taxes on the properties, they should have been put up for auction or taken over by Langley Township decades ago.
However, according to a Township spokesperson, municipal authorities only became aware the properties even existed in 2017, when they were added to the property tax rolls for the first time.
According to correspondence between Trans Mountain and the National Energy Board, the land was surveyed in 1908. But sometime after the rail line went through in 1911 – the year Kavanagh bought the properties – there was an error of some kind in the land title records.
The error was not noticed until 2016. The Township then put the land back on its property tax rolls in 2017.
Since no one has been paying taxes on the land, the Township has the right to auction them off for nonpayment. However, that can only happen after three years of consecutive nonpayment of property taxes, meaning 2020 is the first year the lands might go up for sale, if no heir is found.
The two lots are minuscule, divided by the rail line and right of way, and surrounded by housing and industrial property. They are assessed at $9,000 for the larger and just $200 for the smaller, making them some of the cheapest properties in Langley.
Trans Mountain is required to reach agreements for access with each landowner along the route of the expanded pipeline. If no agreement can be reached, the Canadian Energy Regulatory may ultimately grant Trans Mountain right to enter the property in any case.