Being pushed off his own land
An Area B resident says he is receiving unfair treatment from the Comox Valley Regional District because of what he considers a “malicious” complaint from a neighbour.
The CVRD, however, says John Reiter is contravening a bylaw by living in a recreational vehicle on his Farmview Road property off Dyke Road.
The district has received a written complaint about the 63-year-old Reiter, who purchased the property in 2006. It is zoned Rural ALR, which prohibits occupation of a trailer for longer than 60 days in a 12-month period.
Reiter claims the 60-day limit is only enforced when there is a complaint. He says his lifestyle does not compromise the area.
“The rest of the neighbourhood has supported me,” said Reiter, a retired mill worker. “Why would one bad neighbour run the whole show? Do good neighbours not count?”
He says the CVRD is aware that hundreds of people live in RVs, which he feels is not “intrinsically wrong or damaging.” While a run-down trailer may not be suitable in a Seal Bay subdivision, he feels his setup is suitable for his neck of the woods. He cannot afford to build a house, nor can he afford rent on top of mortgage if he is forced off his property.
Last year, the CVRD board voted to proceed with legal action in an effort to obtain compliance. The district has since served Reiter with a petition and supporting affidavits regarding the residential occupancy of his RV. Reiter responded with his own evidence, but has been advised that material must be in sworn affidavits for it to support his response to the district’s petition to the Supreme Court. The CVRD has also advised him to seek independent legal counsel.
“Our lawyers tried to help him with that whole process,” said Derald Lewis, manager of bylaw compliance and special investigations. “We’ve tried everything. We’re still looking for compliance without going to court. He’s been advised of that. We’d like to settle beforehand.”
Reiter feels the CVRD has lacked oversight and acted with impunity, but Lewis feels the district has exercised leniency by allowing residents to live 60 days in a trailer.
“It’s been a horrible two years of my life,” said Reiter, who claims he has been threatened, bullied and stonewalled when seeking a freedom of information request. “Is it OK to treat a person who is retired with modest resources and does no harm to the environment or my community like this?
“There are a great many people who for one reason or another are going into retirement without a lot of money. Did we suddenly go from being valued citizens to riffraff? To be abused like I have?”
Lewis and other officers have visited Reiter several times. On one occasion, Reiter called the RCMP when he felt Lewis had trespassed and acted aggressively. According to Lewis, the attending officer said he had a legal right to be there. Lewis says the Local Government Act provides authority for regional district bylaw officers to enter a property to determine if bylaws are being met with compliance. In some cases, officers ask police to accompany them to a residence.
Reiter’s documents contain affidavits from a realtor, stating his property does not affect neighbouring property values, and from a health officer, stating that the property poses no threat to the environment or to public health.
“I’m doing absolutely no harm,” Reiter said.