Statements from Andrew Gower with Responses from FOMP

Statements from Andrew Gower with Responses from FOMP

The statements below are from Andrew Gower with responses from our organization. Judge for yourself.

Mr. Gower;
I am writing this letter to set the record straight, vent some frustration and, hopefully, provide some education. While I have been listed as a “Friend of Maple Pool”, this letter contains my opinions and understanding of the situation, and does not represent the views of the Friends, the Lins, or my company, Wedler Engineering LLP. This letter is my personal view and understanding of the facts, and as such, any errors are also mine.
The property on which the Maple Pool campsite sits is currently zoned R1-A. This is a residential zoning that only allows a house, secondary structures, home occupation and, in some cases, agricultural uses. Prior to being annexed by the City, the property was zoned CR-4 – a country residential zoning under the Comox Strathcona Regional District with similar restrictions. The Maple Pool property has never, in its history of operation as a campsite, had zoning that allows the historical use as a seasonal campsite.

FOMP Response:

True, but absolutely irrelevant. “Legal non-conforming status” arises when the usage of a property predates the zoning bylaw. It simply means that a bylaw cannot be applied retroactively. We are arguing that use for year round residence predated the 1983 bylaw of the regional district. The details of the present zoning don’t matter, because the bylaw does not apply to this property.

 

Mr. Gower;
The City of Courtenay had allowed, and documented, that the use of the Maple Pool site as a “seasonal campsite” represented a legal non-conforming status. This was due to the long history of the operation and the lack of any prior enforcement of the zoning bylaws in place by either the City or the Regional District. The City’s position (and the crux of the whole issue from the City’s point of view) is that having year round occupancy of the site is not within the operations that were granted legal non-conforming status. The operations and use that the City considered as being included in the legal non-conforming status include seasonal, temporary camping. As such, the City moved to enforce their zoning bylaw, as they are required by law to do.

FOMP Response:
The 2007 letter clearly recognized “present usage” and never used the words “seasonal campsite”, never made any distinction with respect to year round occupancy. There is a second error by this newly minted lawyer: Cities are NOT required by law to enforce their bylaws. They have complete discretion to enforce or not enforce and many, many bylaws are not enforced unless the city receives a complaint.

 

Mr. Gower;
For those who don’t agree that the City should enforce their zoning bylaw, consider if you will a port-a-potty operation. Imagine you live on a rural residential property, surrounded by other rural residential properties. Imagine your neighbour starts a port-a-potty business and is storing, cleaning and transferring port-a-potties right next to your house. Would you want your local government to assist you by enforcing their zoning bylaw, and filing at the very least, a court injunction telling your neighbour that they had to cease and desist the commercial activity on their property?

FOMP Response:
Another straw man argument! Starr Winchester, who understands about as much law as Andrew does, has made the same argument, ie. what if someone else builds something which violates zoning, using Maple Pool as a precedent? The point is that the zoning WOULD apply to any new building; but it cannot be applied retroactively. 
Any reasonable person would agree with Andrew with respect to this example. But his example has no application whatever to Maple Pool for three reasons:

 

  1. His example is of a STARTUP, NOT A BUSINESS WHICH PRE-DATED THE BYLAW.
  2. His example involves a noxious nuisance; there is no such nuisance in the case of Maple Pool.
  3. In his example, a simple complaint by the neighbour would lead to enforcement of the bylaw.

Mr. Gower;
The above example happened in the Comox Valley, and I can guarantee you that the affected neighbours were very happy that the zoning bylaw was enforced.

FOMP Response:
Total red herring with no application whatever to Maple Pool. Enforcing legislated land-use is one of the prime roles of local governments. The action the City did take; the filing of a law suit demanding that the property be stripped of all improvements that support the camp site business, was, in my opinion, harsh and unnecessary.

Mr. Gower;

While I am no expert in these legal matters, my experience when land use is an issue is that local government would file for an injunction, and then negotiate with the land owner to resolve the issue. Furthermore, the length of time the City took to finally propose a workable, productive solution was far too long. The works and permits being negotiated and executed now should have been in place, and this issue resolved, at least 3 years ago.

FOMP Response:
Funny, to this point we were beginning to think he was contemplating opening a law office!

 

Mr. Gower;
In August of this year, the City finally issued a letter with a workable, productive way forward to resolving the issue at Maple Pool. The City has offered to take care of the zoning at Maple Pool by unilaterally rezoning the property to address the current use. This is a major move by the City, and represents a massive concession to move this issue to conclusion. In exchange, the Lins are responsible for works to improve the flood protection and safety on site, and permits associated with those works. Based on my experience working as a consultant in land development for the last 10 years, none of the permits or works being requested are outside of the normal expectations for what needs to be accomplished on site to protect the property and improve safety for the residents. What is unfortunate is the 3 years of wasted time that has passed since the solutions now being accepted were first suggested to the City by the Friends of Maple Pool, specifically, myself.

FOMP Response:
But Andrew is backing a candidate who is totally committed to continuing the lawsuit and shutting down Maple Pool. Jon Ambler has stated in the past that he will never change his mind on Maple Pool and has confirmed that position as recently as November 5.
Also, what the City is doing by going through the rezoning exercise is expending more taxpayer dollars for something which is totally unnecessary. Because the property is legally non-conforming, the bylaw does not apply to it.
This was clearly intended by the present council as a diversion which councillors hoped would kick the lawsuit down the road until after the election. Later, the rezoning could fail for any one of a number of reasons, and the City would appear to have made an effort but would then be free to continue the lawsuit.

 

Mr. Gower;
When looking at the history of this issue, progress began when the new CAO was hired by the City. Prior to David Allen starting in 2013, no progress towards any sort of workable solution was made. In the year and a half that Mr. Allen has been the CAO, he has found a process to resolve the whole issue that both City Council and their legal team has agreed to. I also note that the CAO is the only employee that City Council hires, and that his role is to work with the Mayor (CEO) to advance all agendas and issues that the City has to deal with. I point this out because the current council is directly responsible for retaining Mr. Allen, and have worked with Mr. Allen to help resolve this issue.

FOMP Response:
Mike Hamilton strongly disagrees, at least with the inference that Allen has moved things along in a timely manner.

 

Mr. Gower;
My firm was retained by the Lins in 2011 to assist with applications and a rezoning process. This was prior to the evolution of the court case, and the Lins defence evolving to that of their property being legal non-conforming and not in need of rezoning. In 2012, my firm shifted to providing services on a pro-bono basis, and since that time we have contributed over $6,000 in professional services to assisting the Lins resolve this issue. Further, I have provided significant additional personal assistance to the Lins.

FOMP Response:
Assistance to the Lins, or assistance to the present council members to stay in power and push the lawsuit?

 

Mr. Gower;
The catalyst for me putting these thoughts down on paper is the notion by some of the Friends of Maple Pool, and some of the candidates for City Council, to have a “march” on City Hall on Monday, November 10th. I have to ask, where was this fervor and passion for the past 3 years? There are those who state that the City finally providing a way forward is only because of the pending election, and the incumbent councillors desire to get re-elected. Well, this sudden desire for a “march”, lead notably by some hopeful candidates for council, the week of the election, appears to me to be nothing but political grandstanding and will not in any way contribute to actually helping the Lins, the residents of Maple Pool, or with resolving the law suit.

FOMP Response:
First, this is a totally false statement. Bob Wells was involved at an early point in recommending the call for a march long before he made the decision to seek office. He has not been leading or organizing the event since. Aside from Bob Wells there has not been a single candidate involved in organizing this event.; secondly, whether the march is a good or bad idea, it was approved by a vote at the last meeting of Friends of Maple Pool. Andrew spoke against it, but lost the vote. He has now set out unilaterally to sabotage the action of the Friends.

Andrew has recently stated that when an individual finds that his values or opinions are in conflict with an organization to which he belongs, he has a principled duty to leave the organization.
After having set out to publicly sabotage the Lins’ legal defence, and now to sabotage a peaceful political protest approved by the organization , as well as supporting a candidate totally committed to continuing the lawsuit, it is time for Andrew to act on principle and stop masquerading as a Friend of Maple Pool. Perhaps FOMP should assist him in doing so.

Mr. Gower;
If anyone considering participating in this “march” really wants to help the Lins, and help resolve this issue, I have some more productive suggestions for you. First off, you can donate money to the Friends of Maple Pool to assist them with hiring some of the other professionals they will need to complete the permits required for the works at Maple Pool. Secondly, when the work is done on site next summer, you can come down to Maple Pool and push a shovel, or pull a rake, or operate a compactor and help raise each of the trailers above the flood level.
The time for politics, muck raking, finger pointing, and grandstanding is over. Some of us have been in the trenches for a while; and we’re happy to welcome new members to the team. Let’s get to work.

FOMP Response:
In other words, let’s re-elect the council which caused this mess in the first place and let them either get on with the lawsuit or change their behavior from what we have seen over the past three years.

1 Comment

  1. Yesterday I made a comment on this issue. I’m extremely disappointed to see the vitriol printed here again. One of your members doesn’t agree with continual refusal to find a real solution and you attack him. I don’t understand the hostility. Is this still about finding a solution for the Lins or a vendetta? Remember that vendettas rarely have happy endings. If your cause is not to find a solution for the Lins are you really their friend? What is the point?

    Reply

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