Campground Fights Zoning Law Against Seasonal Sites

July 9, 2012 by · Comments Off on Campground Fights Zoning Law Against Seasonal Sites 

Legal moves by the city council in Courtenay, British Columbia, against Maple Pool Campground launched nearly a year ago are still being pursued, City Hall confirmed this week.

Chief administrative officer Sandy Gray said the municipality was seeking an enforcement order against the owners to bring the use of the property into compliance with the zoning bylaw, the Comox Valley Echo reported.

Bringing the existing site in to conformity would be very difficult for the property’s owners — and the action could lead to it closing down altogether.

That would mean more than 50 vulnerable tenants would have to find a new place to live — with no obvious solution on the horizon.

City staff had previously suggested that while a smaller, seasonal campground might be acceptable with pads only on higher ground, a permanent residential site at the location was no longer acceptable, despite it being in existence for decades.

The city first resolved to take action in December 2010 after flooding at the site, but gave owners Dali and Jin Lin time to consider how they might bring their property into compliance.

They fixed a backstop date of July 31 last year, but that passed and the council then decided to purse litigation.

Gray told the Echo this week: “The matter is currently being progressed through the Court Registry and our lawyers are working toward an initial hearing in the fall, hopefully in October.

“Between now and then, our lawyers will be preparing affidavits and related information as well as getting prepared for examination of discovery dates.”

Local lawyer Clive Ansley, who is acting for the Lins, said from their side the position had not changed.

“This is a matter easily solved without recourse to the courts,” he said. “Throughout, we have said we are prepared to enter into meaningful discussions to resolve this, but the city is pursuing resolution through the court system.”

Getting both sides to the table to come up with a workable solution without going to court was supported by Larry Jangula before and during last November’s municipal elections. He was elected mayor, but the legal action continues to roll forward.

He told the Echo that councillors had discussed the issue further since the election “and decided to continue the legal process — and as mayor I am obliged to represent the council’s position.”

Last summer, Ansley explained to the Echo that they had a pretty clear idea of the issues they needed to address and confirmed they were willing to pursue them.

“In a nutshell, we seek to rezone the area so it is in compliance, and we will have to meet concerns about flooding,” he said.

Professional advice had been taken to show the physical improvements needed to the site could be carried out satisfactorily, he added.

But the city is pursuing the case on the basis of the existing zoning, not a change to it, although the Lins point out the land has been used as a campground for very many years without any issues over the zoning.


RV Park and Campground Briefs

January 17, 2012 by · Comments Off on RV Park and Campground Briefs 


From the Fort Myers News-Press:

The South Gulfcoast Chapter of CAI recently named Riverwoods Plantation RV Resort Condominium, located in Estero, the Association of the Year.

This award is presented to recognize the best local community association, excelling in all facets of their operation. These associations serve as an example to the industry and encourage educational and professional growth.

James Gratton, the association’s president, and Rachel Barnell, the manager, proudly noted that this is their third award in the past decade or so, and that they have been inducted into CAI’s Hall of Fame.

When asked the secret to success, Barnell said: “Although our community is almost 30 years old, our seven-member board, our management team, and our numerous volunteers continuously strive to improve our grounds and common facilities while maintaining our high standards of excellence. We are honored to be recognized.”


From the Missoula Missoulian:

A former host at the Pattee Canyon Campground who pleaded guilty to molesting four young girls has been sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Wallace Dean “Chris” Christensen, 62, must serve at least 20 years of that sentence without eligibility for parole.

He also must complete phases one and two of the state prison’s sex offender treatment program.

Christensen was arrested in Arizona last April, then extradited to Montana, where he was charged with sexually touching four young girls over a period of two years, from 2007 to 2009.

When Christensen pleaded guilty in November, he told Missoula County District Judge John Larson that he touched the girls’ private areas and had them touch his.

Two of the girls were 8 at the time and the third was 10. Another girl was younger than 16.

Christensen molested at least some of them in his camper at the Pattee Canyon campground, managed by the Lolo National Forest, court records state.

“I have one drink too many and my hands start to wander,” he told authorities, according to the affidavit filed in the case.

The allegations against Christensen came to light when one of the girls told a relative. Others then came forward.

Attorneys in the case had reached an agreement where they’d recommend a sentence of 36 years with 20 suspended. But Deputy Missoula County Attorney Jason Marks wasn’t surprised when Larson sentenced Christensen more harshly.

“I think in drawing up the agreement we were cognizant of the fact that the judge might hand down something more significant,” Marks said Monday.


Cibola County Beacon, Grants:

A 2007 recreation vehicle burned at Acoma’s RV Park near Sky City Casino last week. The owners of the RV were from Las Vegas, Nev., and were headed to Texas for a hunt.

An area of the RV Park was evacuated because there were 1,200 rounds of ammunition, gunpowder, several gallons of alcohol cleaning fluid and five small propane tanks, according to Acoma Fire Chief Orlando Romero.

“We saved about 200 rounds of ammunition and a rifle,” said Romero.“It is a total loss of the RV. The fire was very hot and there was a lot of popping during the fire.”

Fire officials were there from 10:30 p.m. on Jan. 10, until 2:30 a.m. Jan. 11.

“When we got there, it was already engulfed in flames,” Romero explained. “There was not much we could do.”


From the Comox Valley Echo:

A Comox Valley woman accused of manslaughter has been found not guilty by a British Columbia Supreme Court judge.

Laura Lee Pierre had been facing one count of manslaughter after stabbing her domestic partner, Allan Charles Whitequill, in the chest with a knife.

The incident occurred in the couple’s trailer home at Maple Pool Campground in Courtenay on Dec. 28, 2009, at about 11 p.m. Whitequill later died as a result of the injury.

However, Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon concluded that Pierre acted out of self-defence when she stabbed Whitequill, and issued the not guilty ruling.

In her decision, Fenlon called the evidence in the case “far from complete.” She noted both Pierre and Whitequill were highly intoxicated on the evening the incident took place, having consumed “significant” quantities of Listerine over the course of the evening.

“Ms. Pierre recalls sitting at the table in the trailer kitchen at one point,” wrote Fenlon.

“Her next memory is of holding a knife and standing and facing Mr. Whitequill, who was seated on the bed, holding a large knife in each hand: a serrated bread knife in his right hand and a straight-edged knife in his left.

“Her next memory is of the knife in Mr. Whitequill’s chest and pulling it out.

To read the entire story click here.

Unique ‘Campground’ Not Properly Permitted

September 2, 2011 by · Comments Off on Unique ‘Campground’ Not Properly Permitted 

A view of the Maple Pool Campground.

The city of Courtenay, British Columbia, has initiated legal action against the owners of the Maple Pool Campground because it is not getting “voluntary compliance” as per a zoning bylaw, the Comox Valley Record reported.

For upward of eight years, Maple Pool owners Dali and Jin Lin have operated a “Community Living Project” at the Headquarters Road site, located on the east side of Vancouver Island. The campground houses 54 low-income earners, seniors, disabled individuals and the homeless. The couple is concerned they might have to evacuate their tenants.

But the Sandy Gray, a city administrator, said the question of occupancy is clouding the issue.

“The issue is the property owners are doing something that’s not permitted under the zoning,” he said. “They’re allowing occupancy, in many cases permanent occupancy, in the floodplain. The city has been doing our best to work with the property owners to get them to comply.”

At the Lins’ request, about seven months ago, council granted a six-month extension to deal with the situation. But Gray said the couple has not forwarded information suggesting ways of rectifying the situation.

Bottom line: they need to have the zoning changed.

“Because we are in a legal process, all I can say is that in the last five years or so, they’ve increased the occupancy there quite significantly,” Gray said. “This property was brought in as part of a city extension.”

Dali said he has twice put in a proposal but has not received a response from the city.

Aside from violating a bylaw, Gray said the Lins might be putting people in harm’s way from flooding.

“That’s becoming more and more of an acute concern for the city,” he said, noting the campground has flooded twice in about the last year.

Gray also notes increased water flows in the Tsolum River, a problem that appears to be worsening.

Dali feels the city has overstated the flood issue.

“We have a tenant that lived here over 30 years,” he said. “So they know the flood situation. Even if they get a flood, maybe it’s only about a foot of water. They never really get any serious problem … I can get in my gumboots and walk around the whole area.”

Dali suggests two feet of dirt and 100 trucks of fill could resolve issues concerning a “theoretical flood risk.”

Gray, however, said two feet of dirt will do nothing in a flood.

He notes recent events in eastern Canada and the U.S. have demonstrated the “power of water.”

“The reality is that weather patterns are changing,” Gray said, noting Maple Pool is subjected to south winds that push water up the Courtenay River.

Council changed city bylaws as to what the floodplain dictates, raising the minimal elevation by a half-meter. In recent years, soil brought in to the Maple Pool area brought the elevation up to about four meters, but it needs to reach about 6.5 meters, Gray said.

Occupancy, he added, is a separate issue through which the city has tried to work “with limited success” with social agencies and the Lins.

“That’s an issue the property owners have with their tenants, it’s not a city issue,” Gray said. “Some people are trying to colour the issue by having that as the focal point. The focal point is they’re not in conformance with zoning.”

Canadian Campground Struggles to Keep Open

August 30, 2011 by · Comments Off on Canadian Campground Struggles to Keep Open 

Eight months after putting a hold on enforcement action that could have shut down Maple Pool Campground, the city council in Courtenay, British Columbia, has now launched legal proceedings to resolve the issue, the Comox Valley Echo reported.

Last December, the council was on the verge of taking action to get the site into conformance with city bylaws. Without conformance, the campground ran the risk of being closed.

But at the time, councillors feared that might mean turfing out (evicting) low income tenants living in trailers – and increasing the number of homeless people in the Valley in the middle of winter.

So they moved the proposed backstop date for compliance from Jan. 31 to July 31.

But an extra month has now passed since the new deadline came and went.

And City Mayor Greg Phelps said no plan had been produced by the site owners or their representatives to put matters in order.

“We bent over backwards to give them an extension of time to come up with a plan, but they have thrown this back in our face,” said Phelps.

“There has been a half-hearted attempt to come up with an idea, but nothing official. You can’t just walk in with things scrawled on a napkin.

“We have to treat them like anyone else – there is a process. We’re tried hard to be helpful, but it’s not working.”

As legal steps are now being pursued, it would be inappropriate to go in to any more detail, said Phelps. But he insisted taking such action was not the city’s choice, but that of the owners.

To read the entire story click here.

Agency Questions Safety of RV Park Residents

November 4, 2010 by · Comments Off on Agency Questions Safety of RV Park Residents 

The Courtenay, British Columbia, city council has decided to crack the whip with the owners of Maple Pool Campground, the Comox Valley Echo reported.

It is giving them 90 days to respond to its complaint that the land’s use for trailers and mobile homes is contrary to the property’s zoning.

The inference is that tough action is pending over the use of the Headquarters Road land for multiple occupation, especially as the site is prone to flooding.

As most of the residents in about 40 mobile units are on very low incomes, the implications to them as individuals of any tough enforcement would be serious.

That would be especially so if they had to vacate the site in the middle of winter.

So last night Councillor Doug Hillian called on his fellow councillors to seek an urgent round table meeting among the relevant government ministries, local social service organizations and the municipality on the issue.

He said it was essential to plan ahead for the consequences of any enforcement, as it could result in a considerable number of people suddenly facing acute housing needs.

Such action would “impact the most vulnerable section of the population,” he suggested, adding: “We need to find some solutions, otherwise we will face intractable problems.”

The council, which had earlier discussed the bylaw enforcement issue behind closed doors, agreed to seek such a meeting.

Until now, the city, located on the inland coast of Vancouver Island, had not taken action on the alleged contravention of zoning bylaws, despite the fact that the campground has been in place for many years.

Generally, city hall only moves to enforce bylaws when there is a public complaint. But in this case, City Administrator Sandy Gray confirmed it was the municipality itself that had initiated action.

Gray noted that last winter the site had had to be evacuated twice and people re-housed temporarily because of severe flooding. The matter had to be addressed.

Late last night the campground’s owners said they would need to see what was in the city’s letter before deciding whether to make any public comment.