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SCRD moves to ‘wind down’ RV use on Roberts Creek property

Controversial application seeks temporary housing for eight people but has roused community concerns around OCP compliance, liability and trust in local government
LockyerRVs
The non-conforming use of recreational vehicles on a private property in Roberts Creek may soon be forced to 'wind down' after an SCRD staff report.

Eight people may soon have to find another place to live as Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) directors consider a new staff proposal to “wind down” the non-conforming use of recreational vehicles (RVs) on a private property in Roberts Creek.

There are currently five adults and three children living in four RVs at 1220 Lockyer Road in Roberts Creek, a private gated property Jordyn Laxton has owned for around 12 years. Laxton also lives in a house on the property part-time, where his parents live full-time, and another man and his child live in a carriage house. 

Ken Carson, the applicant’s agent who also represents the tenants on the property, said they’ve been working with the SCRD planning department for 17 months in an effort to receive a temporary authorization to continue having occupied RVs at 1220 Lockyer Road for a maximum of three years, but were notified of the proposed alternate solution the afternoon before staff presented the new report in a committee meeting on April 21. 

Staff propose ‘wind down’

“If this alternate solution is employed, the total amount of time of the unlawful RV use on the property will be two to three years which is similar to the maximum amount of time permitted for a temporary use permit,” SCRD senior planner Julie Clark presented.

The rural directors voted four to one in favour of the staff recommendation to abandon the amendment bylaw, and to create a compliance agreement with the applicant to “wind-down unpermitted land uses and pursuing compliance on any land development issues.” 

“Staff believe this alternate path provides a solution that meets the most needs going forward, including a compassionate timeline for the tenants to relocate, compliance accountability for the property owner, demonstration to the community that property owner / compliance and accountability is being sought; and serves to lessen SCRD exposure to liability and precedent,” the staff report states.

The tenants of 1220 Lockyer Road would be given six months to one year to “wind down RV use” on the property “to allow time for tenants to find new accommodation,” as per the Mobile Home Park Tenancy Act. During that time, bylaw would not enforce against the use of the RVs, but if the established timeline is exceeded, “enforcement begins,” the report states.

If a compliance agreement cannot be reached between the SCRD and the property owner, or if the agreement is contravened, “ticketing, up to daily, would follow a period of negotiation in good faith.” 

A public information session was held by the applicant on January 27, and attended by around 85 people. While a March staff report notes some support for the application, concerns included health and safety, environmental health, risks to immediate neighbours, liability and insurance, commercial intent, affordability for tenants, fairness, long-term intentions, parking and current density on the property.

The latest report comes after the board directed staff in March to move the application to second reading, which would be followed by a public hearing. As the use of RVs at 1220 Lockyer Road is non-conforming, Laxton sought an amendment to the Roberts Creek Official Community Plan (OCP), then a temporary use permit (TUP) would be applied for to consider the proposed use with specific conditions. At a March committee meeting, the directors voted three in favour of moving the application to second reading and a public hearing, and two against. 

Since then, SCRD staff reached out to other regional districts in B.C., referral agencies, and heard of “liability and precedent concerns related to the possibility that SCRD will support this use,” and staff are now asking the directors to reconsider their decision to move the application forward. 

Directors vote

At the April 21 committee meeting, directors Andreas Tize, Donna McMahon, Leonard Lee and Mark Hiltz voted in favour of staff’s recommendations, while Halfmoon Bay director Lori Pratt cast the sole vote against. (Municipal directors weren’t eligible to vote on the item.) 

Tize, the Roberts Creek area director, spoke in favour of the motion, and encouraged a timeline of six months rather than 12 months suggested in the report.

“I think this has gone on long enough, and the neighbourhood is concerned. I think six months is more than adequate to move on… I don’t want to encourage this going on any further than it has to,” Tize said. 

Pratt called it “a human issue” and said, “I'm not in support of the six months, I would like to see it go longer because of the tenants. We are in a housing crisis and the reality is there are a lot of people on our Coast that are living in RVs as permanent residents. It's just a fact and it's not just happening within our Coast, it's happening across B.C. and it's unfortunate that there's a conception that it's a lesser-than a place to live. 

“Some people are very happy to live in RVs, and for some people, it's the only way they can get into the housing market or any kind of roof over their head. 

“Frankly, yes, I know that this has been a blatant disregard for our land use bylaws, and for what the community plan is for this property,” she continued. “However, this comes down to, these are people living in homes right now who are within the Coast and are contributing to our community. They are our community members.”

Tize said he appreciated Pratt’s comments, and pointed to concerns including an inadequate septic field, health and safety concerns, and the potential liability for the SCRD for permitting the use.

“The community around it is in an uproar,” Tize said. 

If the application does not go to a public hearing, the applicant is entitled to a partial refund. 

“It’s not about me”: applicant

“I find it incredibly discouraging,” Carson said after the committee meeting. “The fact is there isn't any alternative housing. This was an opportunity to develop alternative affordable housing for a short-term period. By shutting this project down, somebody else is going to have to come up with affordable housing for these tenants or they’ll leave [the Coast]… These are not homeless people. The people in the Lockyer Road project work for a living, and if they can't afford to live here, they will leave. So we lose people who are actually working for a living on the Sunshine Coast. That's what I call a hollowing out of the basic community of interests that is on the Sunshine Coast.” 

“They basically killed the project. So we're not happy. None of us are happy today,” Carson said.

Jordyn Laxton, the property owner, said they have recertified the septic tank, paid for a water riparian assessment and land surveying. He said the alternative solution will effectively discourage others from making similar applications, and he believes his application would have seen support at a public hearing. Now, Laxton says he’ll likely sell the property in the fall.

When asked if he would still go forward with the application if the board decides to allow the second reading and public hearing process to move ahead, Laxton said, “Absolutely,” but expressed doubt that would happen. 

“It's not about me, it's about the tenants. It's about how long can I give them,” Laxton told Coast Reporter. “They’re not just tenants - they’re friends. Worthy people. Worthy of the community, and worthy for someone like me to take five minutes of my time to stand up and say, ‘How about a year instead of six months?’”

A single mother’s struggle to find housing

For Kayla Denis, one of the two single mothers who rent pads on the property, she’s trying to figure out how to explain to her young son that he’ll have to change schools. Denis, 32, has lived most of her life on the Sunshine Coast. She was born in the Sechelt Hospital and the first community she ever lived in was Roberts Creek. For now, she’s waiting to see what will happen, but there’s nowhere to go – other RV parks have waitlists, she said, or are out of range for her job. In June, she’ll complete her apprenticeship and hold a plumbing and gas fitting ticket.  

“I, as a full time employee with a trade, can't afford even a one bedroom out here,” she told Coast Reporter, pointing to the growing pains of the Coast that make it difficult to find a place to live that’s not too expensive, in turn making it difficult for businesses to find and keep workers.

“I'm hard pressed to go and want to work for the people that said ‘No’, so dramatically. 

“How am I supposed to go into your house and make you nice and comfortable when you guys are seeing to it that I'm booted out of mine?” she said.

Denis is sharing her experience “so that maybe people make better decisions in the future, if not totally change the decision on this particular situation, because what's going on here … this is not fixing any problems at all. 

“This is not creating trust, it's not creating a balance.”

What’s next

Gibsons alternate director David Croal was not able to vote on the issue, but said he believes there is an opportunity for the SCRD and the municipalities to finding a place where RVs can be tied into municipal services, even if on a temporary basis where “people might find some refuge.

“Because kicking them from one place to another is not a solution,” Croal said in the meeting. He suggested discussing it at the next emergency housing meeting, scheduled for April 25. “Until we see more shovels on the ground, we’re constantly going to be faced with this problem.”

The motion to abandon the application in order to find a compliance agreement will still need to be approved at an SCRD board meeting. The next board meeting is scheduled for April 28.

 

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