The Aug. 15 regular council meeting of the District of Sparwood was called to order just after 7 p.m. at the District’s office. The gallery had over 20 community members in attendance who were there in large part for the public hearing of the Elk Valley Mobile Home Park’s consideration of Issuance of Development Variance Permit.
The meeting’s agenda, which can be found online at Sparwood.civicweb.net, outlined the hearing and the park’s 13 permit variations. The variations listed ranged from water supply requirements to street lighting and mobile home space reductions and are dependent on the proponent meeting seven conditions. The conditions included providing security in the form of a $5,000 deposit to ensure proper development of the recreation area, the replacement of a tenant’s mobile home or alternative housing for the tenant by Nov. 1, and a certified plumber’s approval of 40 pounds of water pressure in each unit. The recommendation to Council from District staff was to approve the Mobile Home Park Permit and Development Variance Permit.
The public hearing section of the consideration became heated with instances of park residents speaking out of turn or over top of designated speakers. More than half of the gallery spoke during the meeting. Of these, three speakers were in opposition to recommendations, citing documents that allege the water quality has been less than acceptable at times for a number of years, along with unfair treatment and reported bullying by the park owner.
One resident, Andrew Schmitz, put forward a potential water quality fix by suggesting that Council and staff look to bring the park onto Sparwood’s water supply. Schmitz suggested that due to the close proximity of the park to Whiskey Jack Resort, it would be reasonable for the park to run a water main through and hook into Sparwood’s water as the park is within the District’s limits.
Six speakers, including the park owner Lori Koop, were in support of the recommendation. The owner agreed to the majority of the conditions, citing that she has already started talks with Interior Health for water quality and arranged for a plumber to come to check water pressure. One of the conditions the owner did not fully agree with was replacing a condemned mobile home at her expense as she has received word from the tenant saying that he is content with his home in its condition. Some proponents objected to the $5,000 security deposit to ensure recreation development.
Councillor Brad Bowen asked the Manager of Planning, Nelson Wight, why the condemned mobile home has been recommended by staff to be replaced. Wight answered by explaining this home had a tree fall onto it, caving in a portion of the structure. When District staff sent the building inspector to look at the home, the inspector worked with the landlord to recommend ways to make it habitable. Wight believes that the recommendations were a “band-aid” solution to give time for the landlord to find suitable living conditions and that it should no longer be inhabited due to safety concerns. Wight’s concern is that the roof structure may be further compromised, which is why the building inspector will order it vacated if nothing is done before winter due to the concerns of snow loads. The second concern is that the building envelope is not properly sealed and could potentially allow water into the building. If replacing the trailer, it will need to be from 1992 or newer to follow a park -wide condition that the landlord has agreed to. Further discussion of the replacement of the mobile home was added to the condition process.
Mayor Cal McDougall pointed out that it is Council’s job to make the decision that helps the majority, and while it may not make everyone happy, it is the best decision overall for the community. “The comfort, safety and liveability is of the utmost importance to council. There are obviously a number of issues and they have been brought up within the conditions that have been set forward on the issuance of the building permit,” said Mayor McDougall.
He also pointed out that the conditions would have to be met before the variance is issued. There was a section of the motion that was added after the notice went to residents of the park, the variance number two to vary section 4.8.2C, “to permit a minor encroachment of a shed to the buffer zone adjacent to space F18” was removed from the addition so that the recommendation could be approved. All councillors carried the amended motion.