The City of Courtenay has initiated legal action against the owners of the Maple Pool Campground because it is not getting “voluntary compliance” as per a zoning bylaw, said CAO Sandy Gray.
For upwards of eight years, Maple Pool owners Dali and Jin Lin have operated a Community Living Project at the Headquarters Road site, housing 54 low-income earners, seniors, disabled individuals and the homeless. The couple is concerned they might have to evacuate their tenants.
But Gray said the question of occupancy is clouding the issue.
“The issue is the property owners are doing something that’s not permitted under the zoning,” he said. “They’re allowing occupancy, in many cases permanent occupancy, in the floodplain. The city has been doing our best to work with the property owners to get them to comply.”
At the Lins’ request, about seven months ago, council granted a six-month extension to deal with the situation. But Gray said the couple has not forwarded information suggesting ways of rectifying the situation.
Bottom line: they need to have the zoning changed.
“Because we are in a legal process, all I can say is that in the last five years or so, they’ve increased the occupancy there quite significantly,” Gray said. “This property was brought in as part of a city extension.”
Dali said he has twice put in a proposal but has not received a response from the city.
Aside from violating a bylaw, Gray said the Lins might be putting people in harm’s way from flooding.
“That’s becoming more and more of an acute concern for the city,” he said, noting the campground has flooded twice in about the last year.
Gray also notes increased water flows in the Tsolum River, a problem that appears to be worsening.
Dali feels the city has overstated the flood issue.
“We have a tenant that lived here over 30 years,” he said. “So they know the flood situation. Even if they get a flood, maybe it’s only about a foot of water. They never really get any serious problem … I can get in my gumboots and walk around the whole area.”
Dali suggests two feet of dirt and 100 trucks of fill could resolve issues concerning a “theoretical flood risk.”
Gray, however, said two feet of dirt will do nothing in a flood.
He notes recent events in eastern Canada and the U.S. have demonstrated the “power of water.”
“The reality is that weather patterns are changing,” Gray said, noting Maple Pool is subjected to south winds that push water up the Courtenay River.
Council changed city bylaws as to what the floodplain dictates, raising the minimal elevation by a half-metre. In recent years, soil brought in to the Maple Pool area brought the elevation up to about four metres, but it needs to reach about 6.5 metres, Gray said.
Occupancy, he added, is a separate issue through which the city has tried to work “with limited success” with social agencies and the Lins.
“That’s an issue the property owners have with their tenants, it’s not a city issue,” Gray said. “Some people are trying to colour the issue by having that as the focal point. The focal point is they’re not in conformance with zoning.”