I was interviewed recently with Mike Hamilton by CBC radio regarding an update on the situation at Maple Pool Campsite, which has become home to some 50 or more residents.
People in the Comox Valley have shown an overwhelming desire to help these mostly less-fortunate folk, and more importantly have expressed loudly their desire to leave well enough alone.
The City of Courtenay, realizing the existing use of the property did not meet zoning requirements, and was operating on land deemed to be on the floodplain, decided there was a liability issue. In an effort to cover their collective legal butts, they brought about a class action suit against the Lins and their operating of the campsite as it stands. This would have resulted in the eviction of the residents, most of whom would have ended up homeless.
The outcry from the community was immediate and loud: Leave them alone.
A group of prominent businessmen took it upon ourselves to try and solve the issue. We have engineers, lawyers, contractors, heavy duty equipment, we talked to DFO, MOE, the local native band, addressed problems for adding fill and/or raising sites, and got enthused about trying to help.
That was 14 months ago. Courtenay council has yet to grant us an audience, although Mike Hamilton has met with CAO David Allen.
Let it be said we are not a group representing the Lins (although we admire what they are doing) nor are we anti-council. Because this case has been before the courts, council has been reluctant to discuss the issues openly. With the exception of Mayor Larry Jangula, no council member dare commit publicly on his or her stance. They continue to hide from the problem in ‘in-camera’ meetings behind closed doors and are afraid to make a decision.
City lawyers and staff are explaining the pitfalls to council and rightly so — that is their job. None are earth-shattering, however.
But it’s time for council to stand up and do the right thing and allow the continuation of Maple Pool.
The simplest solution and one put to the city administrator several months ago was to have the campsite owners (Lins) and all residents sign a waiver releasing the City of any liability should a flood occur. We are still awaiting their response.
We should also be reminded that any flooding that has taken place to date has been minimal, ankle-deep with no erosion due to high tides and excessive rainfall and melting in a ‘perfect storm’ scenario. It’s nothing like disasters of late in Calgary and Colorado.
One last point is that many buildings and renovations have been allowed on the floodplain without an eyelid batted at council. The Lewis Centre and Old House are two obvious ones, so why not grant Maple Pool a variance?
The residents have an address, a place to call home, a sense of community. They are far enough from town so as not to be a nuisance or a bother and yet close enough that they can walk to town. Many of them are nervous that this will be taken away from them — and as long as this remains unsolved, they are worried.
I know in my heart that council, their administrator and staff would like to resolve this. I know the campsite owners and residents would too, as would most of us in the community.
I ask that common sense and compassion prevail over fear-mongering and legal prohibitive stumbling blocks.