Courtenay to continue in court case against Maple Pool
Courtenay Council has reviewed a judgment to allow additional parties to an existing court action between the City and owner of Maple Pool Campground. After careful consideration and deliberation, council has resolved to proceed with enforcement of bylaws in relation to zoning, Official Community Plan and flood hazard issues on the property.
Some have commented that risk to occupants from flooding is low and limited simply to "wet feet." We must again point out the risk is indeed real and significant.
The Province notes:
•Vehicles, including SUVs, are commonly carried off roadways in as little as 0.6 metres (2 feet) of moving water.
•Walking in moving water deeper than 0.15 metres (6 inches) is potentially dangerous.
Further, they explain that "...most people do not know that even minor depths, flows and velocities of flood waters can create life-threatening conditions."
The City witnessed flooding knee-deep or higher in some occupied campsites. Evacuation guidelines created for Maple Pool in 2010 include campsites unsafe to occupy during the flooding season Oct. 15 to May 1. But in 2011/12 and 2012/13, Maple Pool was found in violation of guidelines, placing several trailers in a high risk zone.
Maple Pool has a history of significant flooding in recent years. In 2009 and 2010 it required evacuation. The City provided assistance. Concerns over resident safety and hazards witnessed during these floods motivated these legal proceedings. The property nearly flooded again in 2011.
This cluster of floods demonstrates that we are not simply dealing with flood events that only occur 'once in 200 years,' although protecting this area and occupants from the significant major flood that is likely to occur at some point every 200 years remains an important concern.
Risks aren't limited to water. In one November 2011 incident, fast-moving currents pushed a fallen tree into a campsite, narrowly missing a trailer that had just pulled away.
We have attempted to resolve the situation outside the courts numerous times.Rezoning and OCP amendment applications would provide the starting point to address legal and safety issues. It has been about three years since the owner was invited to submit applications, yet to date they have not submitted applications or provided a reason. The City was told April 1 the applications would not be forthcoming, despite earlier assurances they would be.
Last fall, concerned citizens constructed a flood wall designed to block currents from the campsite. Is the wall sufficient? Will it negatively affect neighboring properties? We do not know, because the required development permit and flood protection process which would have involved the necessary engineering reviews and research was not done.
We are not inventing flood hazard issues at Maple Pool, and cannot allow the situation to continue, for the sake of the safety to residents and taxpayers who could be footing the bill for damages if the unthinkable occurs.
How have other jurisdictions handled this sort of situation? In 2007, a Calgary judge shut down an Okotoks campground due to similar concerns. In this case, floodwaters resulted in the death of a campground resident.
While the addition of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms argument by a resident adds another layer of complexity to an already difficult situation, we do not feel this justifies allowing the owner to continue ignoring regulations. The homeless deserve housing that meets flood protection requirements.
In February, council resolved to ask the court that the property owner be allowed a reasonable amount of time to address zoning and flood hazard issues, or for residents to find alternative housing.
Council is comprised of members from across the political spectrum; yet the majority, fully informed of the facts in the case, believes that this case must continue.
— City of Courtenay