The controversial lawsuit between the City of Courtenay and the owners of Maple Pool Campground has come to a close.
Following an in-camera meeting Monday at council, Mayor Larry Jangula said the claim and counterclaim relating to land-use and safety issues at the Headquarters Road Campground has been settled on mutually agreeable terms.
Jangula said he is "incredibly relieved" the dispute is over — "like somebody's taken a big weight off my back" — noting council has heard from the public and was prepared to consider its options.
"We had an excellent mediator, I understand, and we had excellent representation on behalf of our council and also on behalf of the Lins."
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. Technically, zoning has prohibited the couple from housing people on the property. Advocates have argued that most of the tenants would become homeless if evicted.
Jangula said the settlement ensures the site will preserve affordable housing and protect residents from flood hazards, and protects the City from future liability for flood hazards and costs, along with environment and fish protection.
"Five years, one month and three days," Jin Lin said, regarding the amount of time that's passed since the ordeal began.
Strict terms of the settlement are confidential, but the Lins have entered into a covenant restricting the use of up to 53 sites at the Campground exclusively for affordable housing. The sites are located at the highest elevations of the property, away from the most direct path of river flows in a flood event.
Moreover, the Lins and residents are providing the City with waivers of liability relating to flood hazards and costs. The Lins have also agreed to protect from further development a 30-metre area for environmental and fish protection along the banks of the Tsolum River and other streams.
As an option, the settlement also allows the couple to operate 23 legally, non-conforming seasonal and short-term Campgrounds at market rates, Jangula read from a joint public statement.
"It's very good news to the people at Maple Pool. None of them will be evicted," Jin said. "Many of them have mental issues. Now they can relax and have a very good lifestyle…It's very difficult for them. Thanks to the whole community (for their) support."
Dali notes the tenants cannot afford rent anywhere else in the Valley.
"They cannot be in a regular apartment," he said, noting the refurbished RVs offer privacy while the river offers peace and tranquility.
"I think the positive thing is that for people who are vulnerable citizens, it is now providing some a long-term consistency," Jangula said. "It provides that they now have a home, they don't have to worry about moving or find another place to stay. I think it helps the Lins, who we all agree have provided a wonderful service for the community. And I think it makes the community a better place to live."
Jangula could not comment on legal costs, though it was known the case had incurred a six-figure expense.
Jin said the lawsuit has been costly.
"That's the only thing I can say. A lot," she said. "This is a time to move on. Personally, we thank the people who call themselves the Friends of Maple Pool. Without them, without the community support, nothing good would happen."
Most of the housing units at Maple Pool Campground are the result of a community-driven donation program. A few years ago, the Lins met with Dawn to Dawn Action on Homelessness co-founder Tom Grant, and created a connection through the RV Program, a program where individuals can donate gently used RVs which are cleaned, and then placed on property at Maple Pool to house those in need.