Maple Pool supporters marched Monday afternoon from Simms Park to Courtenay City Hall to protest council’s “treatment of the residents” at the campsite, as stated on the Friends of Maple Pool website.
Placard-bearing participants demanded help for the homeless and a halt to the lawsuit between the City and campground owners Dali and Jin Lin.
An estimated 60 supporters took part in the rally.
The Friends are a group of citizens who have proposed a way to bring the campsite into compliance with zoning and other regulations that precipitated the legal battle.
Maple Pool — which provides low-rent housing for 57 at-risk individuals — flooded in 2009 and 2010. The following year, the City initiated legal action against the Lins. Zoning prohibits the couple from housing people on the property. Advocates fear that most tenants would become homeless if evicted.
“Unfortunately, this issue has been politicized,” Coun. Doug Hillian said at Monday’s council meeting.
Coun. Starr Winchester concurs that “vulnerable” members of the community have been used as a “political football.”
Hillian notes an Aug. 6 letter from the city is a “genuine attempt to resolve the issue.” The letter says council is prepared to suspend the legal action until the new year to allow the group to attempt to bring the site into compliance.
Hillian also read a letter penned by Andrew Gower, who suggests Monday’s march was “nothing but political grandstanding” by some hopeful council candidates just days before Saturday’s civic election.
Though listed as a ‘Friend of Maple Pool,’ Gower does not represent the views of the Friends group or of his company, Wedler Engineering, but states his opinions and understanding of the situation.
While enforcing legislated land-use is a primary role of local governments, Gower feels the issue should have been resolved at least three years ago.
However, he credits the city for suggesting a unilateral rezoning to resolve the issue.
“This is a major move by the city and represents a massive concession to move this issue to conclusion,” Gower states.
The Lins retained Wedler Engineering in 2011 to assist with applications and the rezoning process.
As of 2012, the company has provided services on a pro-bono basis, contributing upwards of $6,000 to help the couple.
The case, which is before the Supreme Court of B.C., has so far incurred a six-figure expense.
Winchester credits the efforts of Gower and of Friends of Maple Pool member Mike Hamilton.
“I look forward to moving forward,” Winchester said. “Let’s remember: It’s about the most vulnerable people in our community.”