New wrinkle in Courtenay campsite lawsuit
The judge overseeing the legal battle between the City of Courtenay and the owners of Maple Pool Campsite has approved an application to allow two campsite residents to be added as defendants to the action.
"It's a clear win for us on our application to add," said Lee Mayzes, a lawyer representing Greg Wesson and Ross Osmond.
Osmond no longer has standing in the case because he no longer lives at the site, but Wesson plans to proceed.
Unless the City says it is dropping the matter, Mayzes has been instructed to file pleadings in the matter to set out a Charter of Rights and Freedoms argument for life, liberty and security of the person.
"We're going to be moving ahead, unless the City makes a decision that it's not going to proceed," Mayzes said.
Wesson and about 50 other tenants, some of whom were homeless before arriving at Maple Pool, face a possible eviction because the City is attempting to shut down the campsite on Headquarters Road.
The City initiated legal action in 2011 against campground owners Dali and Jin Lin, who rent out RVs at affordable prices.
At issue is zoning, which prohibits the Lins from housing people on the property, which sits in a floodplain. The site flooded in 2009 and 2010.
Advocates expect most of the 50-some tenants would become homeless if evicted.
In a judgment last week in Vancouver, Supreme Court of B.C. Justice Robin Baird notes the City's motivation for seeking orders to cease using mobile homes as living spaces is to keep tenants safe from dangers of living within the 200-year floodplain of the Tsolum River.
"The flooding of 2009-2010 was inconvenient and messy but nothing more," Baird states.
The case has incurred a six-figure expense.
In a statement, the City says its motivation behind the court action has been twofold — to protect the safety of Maple Pool residents in an area prone to flooding and previous evacuations, and to protect Courtenay taxpayers from potential future liability that could occur from not enforcing bylaws, whether at Maple Pool or elsewhere.
Since 2011, the City says it has been open to working with the Lins and their representatives to explore possible solutions to resolve the issue outside court, such as through a rezoning application.
During this time the City has agreed to suspend legal proceedings on three separate occasions for several months each time.
A local group consisting of engineers, lawyers, contractors and other business people has spoken with the City about options for adding fill and/or raising the site to a reasonable flood level.
In a recent motion, Courtenay council resolved that regardless of the results of the court action, the City would “seek a court order that provides a reasonable amount of time for the property owner to address non-compliance issues and for any residents who may be impacted to find alternative housing.”
Council discussed the matter in-camera following Monday's meeting. It will consider the next steps and the City’s options in the coming weeks.
While the latest court judgment does not directly affect the main court case – whether or not the City is entitled to enforce its zoning bylaw in a floodplain – council will "carefully consider the implications and ramifications of all possible outcomes," the statement says. It will also continue to work towards finding a satisfactory resolution to the issue.
Housing solutions are the top strategic priority for the remainder of the council term, the City adds in its news release. Resolving the Maple Pool issue is second only to the supportive housing project on Braidwood Road, it summarizes.