Another lawyer has waded into the legal battle between the City of Courtenay and the owners of Maple Pool Campsite who operate a community living project for homeless and marginalized individuals.
Lee Mayzes is representing Maple Pool residents Greg Wesson and Ross Osmond, who face a possible eviction because the City is attempting to shut down the site on Headquarters Road.
“My argument is that the enforcement of the bylaw by the City would breach my clients’ section seven Charter (of Rights and Freedoms) rights to life, liberty and security of the person in the fact that it is pretty clear that closing Maple Pool would cause them to become homeless once again,” said Mayzes, who appeared at a June 27 hearing at B.C. Supreme Court in Nanaimo.
Wesson and Osmond were both homeless before arriving at Maple Pool, where rent is affordable for those on the fringes of society.
“They don’t have the funds to live anywhere else,” Mayzes said.
The judge has reserved a decision on her application.
The City initiated legal action in 2011 against campground owners Dali and Jin Lin, who had been represented by Clive Ansley. Health issues forced Ansley to step down before the City decided to press on in court. Cameron Ward has taken over the case.
Former City CAO Sandy Gray had said the 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 fear that most of the 56 tenants would become homeless if evicted.
“This is more than a zoning issue,” Mayzes said. “I’m a little nonplussed by it…For them (clients) the safety issue is being made homeless again, that’s their concern. They’ve been there, and it’s not a good position for people to be in. They don’t feel safe being homeless.”
Wesson and Osmond own the trailers in which they live but could not afford the costs of moving the units, even if the vehicles were roadworthy, Mayzes said. She also notes the importance of the socializing and sense of community her clients have found at Maple Pool.
“They derive support from the community that they have there,” said Mayzes, who credits the Lins for supplying a solution to homelessness in the Comox Valley.
She questions if the City can afford to take it away without an alternate plan.
“Besides my application, I think the court is aware that there are serious issues involved in this case,” Mayzes said. “It’s not your typical injunction or civic bylaw case.”
The hearing has been adjourned to the fall.
New City CAO David Allen is exploring options for a meeting between the involved parties.
“We’re doing this on a ‘without prejudice basis,’ ” Allen said.
He recognizes the case involves two issues. One concerns the legalities relating to zoning and Official Community Plan amendments that may or may not be required. The other is the people issue.
“I know that council and certainly myself and senior staff are concerned,” Allen said. “We don’t want people to think that we don’t care about people who are in these sorts of situations. We clearly do, but we also have a responsibility to the taxpayer, and that means not having situations where we put the City in a serious liability issue.”
Under council’s direction, Allen is trying to separate the two processes to reach a balanced and beneficial solution.
“It’s a complex issue but it’s also a people issue,” he said.