Philip Round/Echo Staff / Comox Valley Echo
Steps towards resolving the Maple Pool Campground controversy outside the courts are being taken by Courtenay City Council. Councillors are stressing it will take goodwill and clear commitments from all sides if its high-profile and highly-expensive legal action is to be ended and a compromise reached on the future condition and use of the property, where more than 50 people live in trailers.
But in a clear sign there is a desire to move on, especially with municipal elections looming in three months time, the council says it is willing to suspend its litigation to give time for the Friends of Maple Pool – business people and other supporters of campground owners Jin and Dali Lin – to progress their detailed ideas. The council has also revealed it is willing to consider a “unilateral rezoning” of the property – without requiring an expensive rezoning application from the Lins – that would allow for multi-residential affordable housing units, subject to certain conditions.
The news of a potential breakthrough followed another ‘in camera’ session of the council on Tuesday evening, when councillors agreed their detailed response to proposals aimed at breaking the deadlock put forward by the Friends. Previously, senior staff and representatives of the campground’s supporters had met on a “without prejudice” basis to discuss land-use and safety issues at the site. Tuesday’s behind-closed-doors meeting was chaired by acting mayor Coun. Bill Anglin, as Mayor Larry Jangula was absent on a day’s fishing trip. All the other elected officials were present. The following day, Anglin signed a five-page letter setting out the details of the Council’s agreed position to Mike Hamilton as a representative of the Friends. That letter has now been posted in full on the City’s website at www.courtenay.ca
And in a separate statement to the media, Anglin commented: “We appreciate the efforts of the Friends of Maple Pool to find workable solutions to the concerns at the site. We felt the meeting was productive and represented a positive step forward towards eventually resolving this issue.”
Anglin’s letter to Hamilton includes extensive details of proposed commitments by the City, the Friends, and the campground’s owners and residents that together could resolve the issues. And in a statement, the City says that while it is required by law to follow provincial and federal regulations and processes in searching for solutions, “there are some areas where compromise is possible.”
And it adds: “The City is willing to use its discretion in these instances to make a workable solution more attainable.” Anglin’s letter spells out the process and requirements to bring the Maple Pool Campground into compliance with zoning and other regulations, including, in part:
- Council’s willingness to proceed with a unilateral rezoning application and public hearing, which would eliminate any rezoning application costs by the applicant.
- A commitment by Council to suspend legal action at least until the new year to allow the Friends of Maple Pool, the property owners, and residents, to pursue their part of the agreement.
- A commitment by the Friends of Maple Pool to either meet flood construction and provincial guidelines, or provide a report from a certified engineer “that the land may be used safely for the use intended.”
- A solution to controlling flood currents that meets municipal and provincial requirements.
- An affordable housing covenant that restricts rent increases at the campsite to the level of inflation, except under circumstances beyond the property owners’ control.
- A covenant that waives the City’s liability in the event of a flood, as well as sufficient insurance by the property owners to cover flood losses, and waivers of liability from each resident.
- A commitment by the property owners to ensure residential units meet minimum safety standards, either through the BC Building Code or CSA Standards for residential use.
Anglin’s letter concludes: “Should you consider that any of the above legal pre-requisites are not possible for the Friends and owners together to meet, I would appreciate hearing from you as soon as possible.” And the media statement adds: “The City hopes that by spelling out all of the prerequisites in detail, all sides will have a clear understanding of the steps required to move this issue forward.”
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