Campgrounds Focus of Contentious Land Use Discussion

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July 12, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

The PR Campground near Baynes Lake, British Columbia, was the focus of a recent land use debate.

Two campgrounds near Baynes Lake, British Columbia, were the objects of recent discussion as the community went through a planning process, The Townsman, Cranbrook, British Columbia, reported.

It is the first time that Baynes Lake has had an official community plan. Previously the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) has controlled land-use decisions there because most of the area is within the agricultural land reserve.

Baynes Lake has been up in arms over the plan largely due to existing tensions over two previously unauthorized campgrounds in the community.

The PR and Store campgrounds have been around for years, but PR owner Leah Palmer said she and her parents, Herb and Georgina, only discovered in 2007 that the campground was not permitted. Once they found out, Palmer said, they submitted an application to the ALC, asking permission to use part of their land for the campground.

The application was denied in 2009, once the OCP process had begun, leaving the Palmers wondering if they could continue to operate the campground – and their ranch.

"We want to continue ranching – it's who we are, it's our heritage, it's what got us to where we are in the first place," said Palmer last month. "The campground has helped us remain financially viable. With the rising cost of operating, BSE, global markets? there is a lot more to being in this industry than what you see in your community."

The PR campground has sites for 60 RVs, which are parked year-round and many of the campers have built structures around their home away from home.

"Most of them are retired people who leave their RVs there all year-round. They build little decks and plant grass and flowers and have a sense of ownership. We do very little maintenance on our campground, it's all done by the campers. They feel a part of it," said Palmer's partner, Rick Henderson.

The owners of those RVs were outspoken in their opposition to the OCP, which would have meant the Palmers not only needed to re-apply for ALC permission but also rezoning for the campground.

But a last-minute reprieve meant both the PR and Store campgrounds will be supported in the new plan.

"In the week leading up to the public hearing, (planning) staff were advised that the ALC board was going to hold meetings that week and they were prepared to make a decision on the Palmer and (Store) campgrounds," said Heath Slee, director of Area B, who represents Baynes Lake.

"When they came back with the recommendation that they were prepared to support 70 units on the Palmer property and 25 units on the (Store) property, that was changed on the plan."

"It's an issue that had been left lingering for too long, in my opinion. The ALC should have made a decision long before it came to this stage. A lot of the resulting conflict would have been avoided if they had made a decision much earlier, prior to taking on the planning exercise," he added.

Now in the official community plan, the two campgrounds are zoned for residential uses and deemed compliant.

Two hundred and ninety-one comments were submitted to the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) about the Baynes Lake Official Community Plan (OCP), and 86 people attended a fiery public hearing on June 29. The population of Baynes Lake is only 484, according to the 2006 census.

Now, with the most contentious issue dealt with, Slee is hoping that Baynes Lake can repair its division.

"I'm hoping that over time people will realize that there have been compromises made on both sides," said Slee. "Once people come to understand what planning is all about and how they can use this plan, I think they'll come to realise they are in a position where they can influence and impact the decisions with respect to the development of the community over time."

The Baynes Lake Official Community Plan will now be sent to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure for approval. It is likely to be back before the RDEK board for adoption in August.

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