On June 17th Mike Hamilton, together with Andrew Gower, the engineer working for Friends of Maple Pool (the “Friends”) met with senior Courtenay City staff. Mike and Andrew presented a plan for resolving the conflict between the City and Maple Pool. This plan was based on two fundamental points. First, the City would finally terminate the ill-advised lawsuit it has been pursuing for three years against the Owner of Maple Pool; second, Mike and his group of volunteers from the Courtenay business community would undertake and pay for physical changes to the Maple Pool property which would address all the City’s alleged safety concerns.
There was also discussion of a possible re-zoning of Maple Pool, but much confusion has arisen about the rezoning process, who wants the rezoning, and the present legal status of the property with respect to zoning. For this reason, we shall address the re-zoning issue separately on our website, within the coming week.
In any event, City staff told Mike Hamilton at the end of the meeting on June 17 that the City would have a response to him by “the end of the week”. Mike Hamilton finally received this response on August 6.
The Friends are pleased on the one hand that after four years City councillors have finally made some positive suggestions concerning possible solution of this issue. It is the first time this has happened and we think the City’s August 6 statement contains some positive suggestions. And it is certainly fitting that politicians should sound positive on the eve of elections which will determine whether they continue as our representatives on Council for the next four years.
But we are compelled to approach the City’s statement with a certain caution. The present exchange of views between the parties cannot be severed from the history of the lawsuit, and the Councillors’ new interest in finding a solution must be analyzed and evaluated in the context of everything which has gone before. We invite the people of Courtenay to visit our website. Visitors will find a concise factual history of the lawsuit (among much other useful material). The website is a work in progress and we shall continue to add new material on a regular basis.
The brief history on the website will assist readers in understanding why the Friends, though encouraged by the positive statements from our council, are treading very carefully and cautiously and why a solution to the Maple Pool issue will require more than Councillors have offered to this point. We have been misled and deceived repeatedly by council in the past and at least part of the current statement is reminiscent of the many misrepresentations made by those councillors, and by City staff, in the past.
We refer in particular to the City’s offer to “suspend the lawsuit until the new year” in order for the two parties to hold further discussions and for Maple Pool to undertake certain steps to the satisfaction of Council. We think the wording of this statement implies that the City is taking some positive step to adjourn or postpone a trial which would otherwise take place before the New Year. This is more deception. The City gets no points at all for this “offer”.
Why? Because the offer is devoid of content. There is no trial date scheduled at the moment. If our City Councillors decided today to push forward with the lawsuit, our lawyers advise us that there is no possibility the matter could be scheduled before January and in all likelihood it could not be scheduled until well into 2015. Councillors are attempting to claim credit for a generous “suspension” of the lawsuit when the reality is that they have no way of pushing it forward in the next few months.
The Specifics of the City’s Position
The City statement contains extensive discussion of s. 910 of the Local Government Act. We shall not discuss this legislation at this time, but our lawyers have advised us that this section of the Act is mostly permissive and that there should be no difficulty meeting requirements, if Councillors are sincere in their expressed hope for a solution. Indeed, readers accessing our website will have the opportunity to read an article and commentary about how the City of Vancouver is handling the exact same problem which our Councillors have to date found insoluble. Huge areas of Vancouver are located on a flood plain. There is no plan to close down those areas of the city or to evict any of its residents. But the city intends to bring in new zoning regulations in future which will impose new requirements on any future construction.
100% of the City of Richmond is located on a flood plain. Richmond also is subject to the Local Government Act, but has no plans to close down.
The City requires Maple Pool to sign an “affordable housing covenant”. Neither the Friends nor the Owner has any problem with this requirement and we confirm that the Owner of Maple Pool will in fact execute such a covenant (in effect a commitment not to increase rent beyond the rate of inflation) if it leads to a termination of the lawsuit.
Dwelling units at Maple Pool must meet BC Building Code or CSA standards for RV’s. Very briefly, we don’t think the building code applies to these units, and we are advised that there is no problem with the CSA standards. Readers will find on our website within the next week a very detailed report about a campsite used for year round residency and also the complete by-law enacted by the City of Nanaimo a few years ago to rezone a campsite for permanent residency.
…removal of the lock blocks within this area (or in the alternative a development permit application…)….
First, we are advised that no permit is required for the lock blocks because their height is below the height which invokes the relevant regulations; second, as a practical matter, the person responsible for Emergency Evacuation has confirmed that the lock blocks placed on the property by Mike Hamilton have removed his safety concern over flood currents on the property. This council, while doing nothing whatever over the past four years to find a solution to “the problem of Maple Pool”, has repeatedly emphasized its over-reaching concern for the safety of Maple Pool residents.
Mike Hamilton’s lock blocks have eliminated the only serious safety issue and have undeniably made residents safer. City Hall, the vaunted protector of resident safety, wants to force the removal of the blocks because they are not covered by a permit?
A covenant from the property owner waiving liability … and indemnifying the City for losses suffered by residents…together with individual waivers from current residents…. The Owner of Maple Pool and their residents have long been on record as willing to sign such waivers. There is no problem with this requirement.
The Friends thank Councillors for having made a number of positive suggestions and indicating that after four years they are responding to appeals for reason. The Friends hope we can come to an understanding. In order to solve the matter once and for all, the Friends require just two things. First, Council must commit absolutely, irrevocably, once and for all agree to a termination of the lawsuit right now, immediately. Not “until the new year”; not sometime down the road, after the November elections. Now.
Second, Council must commit to the basic principle that Maple Pool shall remain open and its residents will be allowed to continue residence there. The old saying that “where there is a will, there is a way” has never been truer. 80% of the world’s population lives on flood plains. From Nova Scotia to the Red and Assinaboine Rivers in Manitoba, to the Bow River in Calgary, to Vancouver and Richmond, to the huge populations along the Yangtze, Yellow and Ganges Rivers; governments have not resolved flooding problems by evicting the residents! Here in BC, other municipalities have helped residents to meet provincial requirements. Courtenay faces no problems not faced in much greater dimensions by Vancouver and Richmond.
The City response as it presently stands essentially asks us to buy a “pig in a poke”. “Leave it with us; we’ll initiate a rezoning process which will take until well after the coming election, but we can’t guarantee the results; we’ll initiate other procedures as well, but can’t guarantee results until after the election.”
That’s not good enough! Council has had four years to solve this situation and has done nothing whatever toward that end. Now they prepare to “kick the ball down the field” until after the election. Trust us for another four years and “we’ll do something, but we haven’t yet figured out what!”
The Friends of Maple Pool say Council must show us what they can do before they seek our vote.