British Columbia’s (Canada) Peace River Regional District is considering legal action against an RV campground discovered to be operating without permits in Pouce Coupe last year.
According to a report, directors discussed the situation during the board meeting, with a deadline of 30 days to file a civil suit before the Supreme Court, if the RNN Rentals property at 437 Briar Ridge Road cannot meet the requirements of the bylaw. A motion to defer was suggested but failed.
Twenty-two RV sites and a food truck, workshops, rental shack, washroom facilities, a restaurant, convenience store, and various other buildings were discovered on the property. The property is located in the Agricultural Land Reserve and not specifically zoned for commercial uses. Thirteen unpermitted structures must be taken off the property to conform to PRRD Bylaws, including sewer and electric infrastructure.
Owners Doreen Shadow and Lyle Pringle sought two exemptions from the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC). However, they were refused in April 2021 and in July 2020 after they stopped development in November 2019 when they learned of the ALR status.
In their rulings, the ALC panel rejected the application since the campground isn’t an approved use per the ALC Act and was constructed without ALC approval, nor the required PRRD permit for construction.
“The Panel finds that the Applicants, through the exercise of due diligence, could have determined that their property is located in the PRRD and the ALR, and that lack of awareness of the regulations cannot be used to justify non-compliance,” wrote Panel Chair, Janice Tapp, in their July 16, 2020 ruling.
In the April 9, 2021 ruling, the ALC panel ruled that the 10.7-hectare exclusion request from the owners would not be acceptable even though it would leave a campground green area of 7.1 hectares for gardening. According to the panel, camping and music festivals are not following Section 6 of the ALC act, and they would not be able to preserve agricultural uses even if permitted.
Additionally, they concluded that the proposal of the owners to dump shale, gravel, and shale on the property to construct RV sites was not justifiable, as it would harm the ALR.
The owners requested reconsideration but were denied yet again by ALC on October 27, 2021, based on the reasons outlined in the previous two rulings.
An adjudication meeting took place on January 20 for the PRRD with one bylaw ticket being canceled, as the adjudicator felt that the owners were trying to resolve the ALR Zoning issue. However, they did not comply with the PRRD bylaw by not confirming the status of their permits for the structures.
Shadow is of First Nations heritage, with ancestry to Chief of the Beaver Nation, Pooscapee, after which the village is named, as there was once an indigenous lodge nearby their property and had planned to host cultural activities at the campground.
In a November 15, 2021, letter to Premier Horgan, the Ministries of Agriculture and Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, MLA Mike Bernier, and the PRRD, Shadow noted they were unaware of the property’s ALR status at the time they purchased it in 2015 through a private sale.
“At no time during the purchase of the property, nor within the year or two after were we notified that the property we paid for was part of the ALC, nor were we notified that anything we did on this property was restricted,” Shadow wrote.
She also said they were given permission by the village of Pouce Coupe to run the campsite, but then they realized that the property wasn’t located within the village and therefore was under ALR status following the denial of a liquor license.
Erin Price, PRRD Bylaw Enforcement Officer, says that the current bylaw allows only home-based business for properties less than 1.8 hectares, and from an approved list of business types, and noted the property is 17.8 hectares, well beyond the approved size.
“There’s been nothing done that I know of to bring the property into compliance, there are some things that the landowner was hoping to get permission from the ALC, so when those applications were in process, I did put the enforcement on hold,” said Price. “The difficulty is that even those applications to the ALC did not ask permission for all of the things that they’re doing.”
Taylor Mayor Rob Fraser says he understands the owners’ frustration over the ALC and the implementing bylaws. However, he says the PRRD should support the personnel in the enforcement.
“Ultimately, we are the body that decides which bylaws are going to be enforced and whether they’re going to be enforced, and we’ve got staff that does that for us, and we need to support our staff,” said Fraser.