Statement on Maple Pool Court Case – City of Courtenay

April 11, 2014
Courtenay City Council has reviewed the recent court judgment by Justice Baird to allow additional parties to an existing court action between the City of Courtenay and the owner of the Maple Pool Campground. After careful consideration and deliberation, Courtenay Council has resolved to proceed with the enforcement of the City’s bylaws in relation to zoning, Official Community Plan (OCP), and flood hazard issues on property.
There are many aspects to this case that we are not able to discuss publicly due to the ongoing litigation.
Here are the facts that we can talk about:
Some have commented that the risk to occupants from flooding at Maple Pool Campground is low and is limited simply to “wet feet”.
We must point out, once again, that the risk is indeed real and significant.
The Province of BC notes:
Vehicles, including SUVs, are commonly carried off of roadways in as little as 0.6 metres (2 feet) of moving water.
Walking in moving water deeper than 0.15 metres (6 inches) is potentially dangerous.
Further, they explain that “…most people do not know that even minor depths, flows, and velocities of flood waters can create life-threatening conditions.”
The City witnessed flooding in some occupied campsites at Maple Pool that was knee-deep or higher.
The Comox Valley Emergency Program created Emergency Evacuation guidelines for Maple Pool in 2010, which included guidelines on which campsites were unsafe to occupy during the flooding season (October 15 to May 1).
However in both the 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 flood seasons, Maple Pool was found in violation of these guidelines, placing several trailers in the high risk zone.
Maple Pool has a history of significant flooding in recent years, in both 2009 and 2010, which required evacuation. The City provided assistance with these evacuations. Concerns over resident safety and the hazards witnessed during these floods motivated these legal proceedings.
The property nearly flooded again in 2011.
This cluster of floods demonstrates that we are not simply dealing with flood events that only occur “once in 200 years”, although protecting this area and its occupants from the significant major flood that is likely to occur at some point every 200 years remains an important concern.
The risks aren’t limited to water. In one November 2011 incident, fast-moving water currents pushed a large fallen tree into a campsite, narrowly missing a resident’s trailer that had pulled away only minutes before.
We have attempted to resolve this situation outside the courts numerous times. Rezoning and OCP amendment applications would provide the necessary starting point to address both the legal and safety issues at this site.
It has been approximately three-years since the property owner was first invited to submit these applications, yet to date they have not submitted complete applications, nor have they provided a reason for this.
Disappointingly, on April 1st 2014 City was informed that these applications would not be forthcoming, despite repeated earlier assurances starting in 2011 that they would be completed.
We also offered the property owner the option of a temporary use permit to give them additional time to resolve the issues at the site. This too was rejected.
Last fall, concerned citizens constructed a flood wall which was designed to block dangerous currents from the campsite. Is this wall sufficient?
Will it negatively affect neighbouring properties? We do not know, because the required Development Permit and flood protection process which would have involved the necessary engineering reviews and research was not done.
We are not inventing the flood hazard issues at Maple Pool, and cannot allow the situation to continue as it stands currently – both for the sake of the safety of the Maple Pool residents, and the taxpayers who could ultimately be footing the bill for damages if the unthinkable were to occur. The City has no motivation other than the very real risks to the campground’s occupants and our taxpayers.
How have other jurisdictions handled this sort of situation?
In 2007, an Okotoks, Alberta campground was ordered shut down by a Calgary judge due to concerns that were similar to ours here in Courtenay. In their case, floodwaters resulted in the death of a campground resident.
While the addition of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms argument by a Maple Pool resident adds another layer of complexity to an already difficult situation, we do not feel this justifies allowing the property owner to continue to ignore municipal regulations. The homeless and vulnerable in our City deserve housing that meets flood protection requirements, and the City is committed to working toward safe housing alternatives for the residents.
We appreciate and understand the concerns of those in the community worried about Maple Pool residents. We share those concerns.
In February, Council resolved to ask the court that the property owner be allowed a reasonable amount time to address the zoning and flood hazard issues, or for residents to find alternative housing. Courtenay Council is comprised of members from across the political spectrum; yet the majority, fully informed of the facts in the case, believes that this case must continue.
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