City Clarifies Maple Pool Campground Dispute

September 25, 2013

City of Courtenay Council wishes to clarify the reasons behind the legal dispute with the owners of the Maple Pool Campground, the current status, and possible resolutions.

The City of Courtenay has been involved in legal action against the Maple Pool Campground owners since 2011. The property, on the bank of the Tsolum River, is not zoned for permanent residential use in recreational vehicles. Floods in 2009 and 2010, both requiring evacuations, raised concerns about the safety of occupants at the site. The property nearly flooded again in 2011.

The City understands the legal dispute and the resulting uncertainty has been difficult for the residents of the Maple Pool Campground. However, when it comes to land use, the City is responsible both legally and legislatively. When a safety issue is brought to the City’s attention, particularly one that affects a large number of people, it is the City’s responsibility to act.

This situation has escalated over time. Since about 2006, the number of residents at Maple Pool has steadily increased, making it much more challenging to help them during an emergency. There are now approximately 55 people living there year-round.

As witnessed here in Courtenay and in other parts of the country, flooding in low-lying areas is a serious issue, and with climate change the problem will likely continue to become worse, not better.

The City is concerned about the safety of occupants on the property and that it could be held liable if such an event were to harm any of the Maple Pool residents.  

The City remains open to exploring options which could help resolve the Maple Pool issue. In June 2011, Maple Pool representatives proposed that a new zoning classification be created for the property. At that time, the City invited the owners of Maple Pool to formally submit rezoning applications. The City also agreed to adjourn the hearing of the case twice to allow Maple Pool owners time to come up with a solution.  To date, no completed applications for rezoning or Official Community Plan amendments have been received.

The City has offered to make information available to Maple Pool representatives to help them prepare these applications. In July, the City provided the most up to date hydrology and modeling technical memos to Maple Pool representatives. This information is related to the City’s own floodplain mapping project and is not a model for the Maple Pool Campground.

Maple Pool representatives are still responsible for determining what effect their own proposed work would have on the Tsolum River System, both on their property and on the adjacent properties, before any application for rezoning or an official community plan amendment could be considered.

Last fall, both sides met to discuss possible solutions regarding the use of the property. City Council established a working committee consisting of three elected officials plus City staff, to liaise with the Maple Pool owners and their representatives, who indicated that they would come up with possible solutions and options to raise the land in order to conform to set flood levels and construction elevations. This research and related plans likely require the work of a hydrologist and ultimately the approval of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Ministry of Environment. Council again indicated their willingness to consider an application for zoning and OCP amendments in respect of the use of the property.

In July this year, senior administration and staff with the City met with representatives of the Maple Pool Campground and business people who have offered to help in finding a solution. The City remains willing to continue meeting with Maple Pool representatives in their efforts to bring the site into compliance with City’s zoning bylaw. Solutions may be multi-faceted, and the City is open to possibilities.

Even if the legal channels result in a ruling favourable to the City, the ruling would simply determine whether Maple Pool was in compliance with existing zoning. The steps that could be taken afterwards are still up for discussion.

Courtenay City Council is concerned about the need for suitable affordable housing in our community. While municipalities are on the front-lines when it comes to affordable housing and homelessness, it is an ongoing challenge to find solutions. The City recently purchased property on Braidwood Road to be used for a supportive housing project. Last week, Council members met with Rich Coleman, Minister of Natural Gas Development and Minister Responsible for Housing, to seek the Province of B.C.’s support. 

Council will also be participating in the Comox Valley Housing Task Force’s upcoming forum on October 16 at the Florence Filberg Centre. This will be an opportunity to examine homelessness, access to affordable housing, and healthy communities, and to work with other Comox Valley local governments on finding housing solutions.