Thursday, August 30, 2018

Past zoning arrangement comes back as focus on trailer home eviction plans

Council heard concerns from a pair of residents of the Frederick Street
area, bringing back a zoning issue that proved controversial ten years ago

A zoning arrangement of ten years ago between the City of Prince Rupert and a property owner on Frederick Street came back to haunt City Council members on August 20th, as Paul Lagace from the Prince Rupert Unemployment Action Centre provided council members with an overview of an eviction issue facing two mobile home residents, who currently reside in mobile homes in what is now mostly an industrial site on the city's southeast side.

The area which was once known as the Mountain View Mobile Home Park, is now for the most part an industrial site for a local fishing company, the last two homes more or less grandfathered into the site ten years ago in a zoning plan that seemingly tried to find common ground between the twin uses, though it was an arrangement which did cause Council members some vigorous discussion back in 2008.

The history of the original zoning was one that was controversial at the time, with Councillor Joy Thorkelson having expressed her reservations of the city's approach ten years ago .

The concern of the original agreement, was of the prospect of the residents to be forced out of the location and as the the ten years moved forward, the attrition of residents does seem to have taken place as predicted.

At the heart of the dispute now, is an attempt by the owner to evict the final two residents from the property, with Mr. Lagace offering up his interpretation of events that by their actions, the owners were not only trying to break a contract with the home owners; but are going back on arrangements made with the city of Prince Rupert to have the land rezoned.

He asked if there was any action that the city of Prince Rupert could do to assist the residents to help them keep their manufactured homes as a result of the owners attempts.

As part of his overview for council, Lagace noted that the two homes in question are the two last manufactured homes in the community and there is nowhere for them to move their homes.

The two residents also offered up their personal testimony of the situation and the seemingly deteriorating relationship with the property landlord.

Council members noted that the issue is a tough one to address and does seem to indicate that City Council may require better guidance in the future in other instances of changing zoning designations.

"After reading all these papers, you know my attitude is once a deal, always a deal. The owner of this property got it rezoned and the city did it in good faith, taking his word that he would stand behind his words and in this town your word is your word. I find it very disturbing that ten years later he thinks he can just go back on a deal not only with the tenants, but with the city too" -- Councillor Barry Cunningham 

"I think it's quite a serious situation, I was on Council at the time that this agreement was written and I was very concerned at the time that if we rezoned it, it would mean a closure of the mobile home park and we had quite a discussion about it at Council ... What concerns me, is that we were assured at the time is that this was going to be enough to ensure that if we rezoned, the people would be able to remain in their homes, and now if we can't do anything about it, then you have to start to wonder as a Councillor whether we should rezone anything, believe anybody. And it also means that we need to have better advice"  -- Councillor Joy Thorkelson

As for the current situation, Mayor Brain noted that the City would have to explore the issue further, before it could offer an opinion or response to the issue.

"Well this is a very unfortunate event, the only thing I can comment on right now, is that we're going to have to look into this and I know that it's a timely matter so we'll have to get on top of looking into that. I'm not sure what the legislation is or what the agreement is to be honest with you, so we'll have to get our planning department engaged and we'll have to get our administration engaged and we'll get back to you guys as soon as possible with some kind of response ...  We're going to look further into this and there will be a prompt response and reply from the city"

Among some of the themes that Council will have to explore prior to providing for any comment, will be to contact the property owner to hear his side of the dispute and to determine from that, if the issue could potentially be as Councillor Cunningham noted, one of a simple landlord tenant dispute and outside the reach of Council's purview.

You can review the full presentation, along with the questions and observations from Council members from the City's Video archive, starting at the very beginning of Monday's Council session.

For more items of note related to Monday's session, see our Council Timeline feature, while an archive of notes from the August 20th session is available here.

A wider overview on City Council issues can be found from our Council Discussion page.

Housing issues in the Northwest are also reviewed from our housing archive page.

To return to the most recent blog posting of the day, click here.

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