Courtenay city council is prepared to suspend legal action against the owners of Maple Pool Campsite until the new year to allow a group of citizens the opportunity to bring the site into compliance with zoning and other regulations.
Maple Pool — which provides low-rent housing for about 50 at-risk individuals — flooded in 2009 and 2010. The following year, the city initiated legal action against campground owners Dali and Jin Lin.
The issue is zoning, which prohibits the couple from housing people on the property.
Advocates fear that most of the tenants would become homeless if evicted.
The Friends of Maple Pool has met with city officials to discuss options to address land-use and safety issues at the Headquarters Road campsite next to the Tsolum River.
“We offered to fill the site up to the 200-year flood level to the bottom of the trailers,” group member Mike Hamilton said. “The wheels would still be below the 200 but the floor of the trailer would be above. We said we could do that if they could see their way clear to give us the rezoning or drop the court case at least, and then call it legally non-conforming.”
The case has already incurred a six-figure expense.
The Local Government Act does not allow the city to permit the underside of a residential structure to be located below the flood construction level for the property, or to permit fill within a 30-metre setback of the Tsolum. However, the act allows the city to consider an exemption to these requirements if it receives a report certified by an engineer that the land may be used safely.
“We appreciate the efforts of the Friends of Maple Pool to find workable solutions to the concerns at the site,” acting mayor Bill Anglin said in an Aug. 6 news release. “We felt the (July) meeting was productive and represented a positive step forward towards eventually resolving this issue.”
While the City is required to follow provincial and federal regulations in searching for solutions, it says “compromise is possible” in some areas.
“The City is willing to use its discretion in these instances to make a workable solution more attainable,” the news release states.
Council is prepared to proceed with a unilateral rezoning, which requires a public hearing but would not require the Lins to pay rezoning application costs.
Council is also asking for an affordable housing covenant that restricts rent increases at the campsite to the level of inflation, except under circumstances beyond the property owners’ control. It also wants a covenant that waives the City’s liability in the event of a flood, as well as sufficient insurance by the Lins to cover flood losses, and waivers of liability from each resident.
“I think everybody wants the same thing at the end, but there’s differing opinions on how to get there,” Hamilton said.