Residents of Tofino’s Crab Apple Campground can take a momentary sigh of relief after the town’s municipal council extended their legal lives by six months last week, a report said.
It was difficult to add more time as the Local Government Act prohibited Temporary Use Permits to be renewed more than once. Crab Apple’s second TUP, which allowed Crab Apple to operate a 45-site residential camping site, is due to expire on Oct. 2, 2021.
Crab Apple was granted its first TUP in 2016, and the second one in 2018, both with a ban on tourism.
The council met on Aug. 24, to review Mathieu Amin’s latest application for a Temporary Use Permit for three years to operate a 44-site residential camping site. One less than the current TUP permits. However, they unanimously approved a six-month TUP for 32 sites.
The campground community currently has 13 fully serviced and 31 unserviced campsites. There are also showers, washrooms, and laundry facilities. A communal kitchen and greenhouse are also available.
Aaron Rodgers, the manager of community sustainability in the district, presented the 32-site compromise to the council. He also suggested reducing the term to 18 months.
Aaron Rodgers, manager of community sustainability, explained that the Temporary use Permits were meant to provide short-term housing options for Tofino residents who are unable to find other housing options. “This is not a bridge for future development. It is a Temporary use permit to address an immediate housing need in the area.”
Rodgers stated that the application is compatible with the district’s Housing Needs Assessment. He noted that Crab Apple sites are being rented for between $450 and $800 per month. However, Rodgers said that the district staff is concerned about how the campsite is being operated and that any permit would need to be subject to a long list of conditions, including a housing agreement and health permits, and inspections of safety equipment monthly.
Rodgers submitted a written report to the council recommending an inspection at 1141 Pacific Rim Highway. Rodgers raised concerns about expired fire extinguishers and electrical cords that could cause fire hazards. He also mentioned concerns about smoke alarms, CO2 detectors, expired fire extinguishers, electrical cords creating fire hazards, strong sewage smells, uninsured vehicles, and unsafe storage of combustible material
To ensure residents who move in are not caught unaware and have ample time to search for alternative housing, he added signage about the TUP’s duration.
Coun. Britt Chalmers wanted clarification as to why Crab Apple would have a third TUP, when the law prohibits them from being renewed more than once.
Rodgers stated that the Local Government Act does not specify how much of a change is required for a TUP to be considered different from the one issued before.
He said that it was “up to the municipal staff and me to decide what ‘different’ looks like,” noting that the new TUP would apply to fewer sites and for a shorter period of time than the previous two.
Coun. Jacky Challenger remarked on the Campground’s “long list of requirements” to comply with the law and asked if all these requirements would need to be met before a new TUP can be issued. Cathy Thicke asked how the district would ensure that the requirements were met.
Rodgers replied that TUPs were “difficult” to enforce, but the district could issue fines for noncompliance.
“The expectation of staff is that they’re working together with landowners and business owners who are interested in following our rules.” He said that it is difficult to work with landowners or business owners who don’t follow the rules of the letter.
Coun. Duncan McMaster was skeptical that compliance would ever be achieved and suggested limiting TUP to six months to allow the owner to prove his doubts wrong.
“Having had a history dealing with this property, I don’t have much confidence that these conditions will be met. He said that he would prefer a shorter term for TUP 1 and that if conditions are met, he would be open to supporting a longer TUP 2. I think it’s enough time to meet most of the conditions. Then we could consider a two-year or even three-year TUP.”
Coun. Tom Stere described McMaster’s proposal as “interesting” and said that his main focus was on finding solutions for residents of Crab Apple.
He said, referring to the affordable housing projects at Sharp Road and District Lot 114 that he was concerned about the “those individuals” and the timeframes they might have to search for other accommodation.
Thicke stated that she was reluctant to approve the TUP until all conditions were met but he was willing to give it a shot for six months as long as the campground was in compliance.
She said, “We’ve been around the block quite a bit and I personally don’t have the confidence in 2016 that we were moving in the right direction. To be completely honest, I don’t like the idea of people living in unsafe or unsanitary conditions. It is not in the district’s best interest to condone such behavior and it is not in the best interest of those who live there.”