DAWSON CREEK, B.C. — A judicial review between the Peace River Regional District and a Pouce Coupe couple operating an unpermitted campground has been settled in Supreme Court, with Justice Shelley C. Fitzpatrick ruling that the couple sought to avoid consequences from agricultural zoning and district bylaws.
“They sought to avoid the consequences arising from the fact that the Property was in the ALR and that certain zoning and building bylaws applied,” reads the July 10, 2023 judgment, made in Dawson Creek Supreme Court.
The couple, Lyle Pringle and Doreen Shadow, had been operating 22 RV sites, a food truck, a rental shack, workshops, washroom facilities, a convenience store, a restaurant, and other business-related buildings at 437 Briar Ridge Road.
The property remains in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) and was never zoned for commercial or non-farm use, with the ruling noting the couple were unaware of the ALR status at the time of purchase.
The couple had intended to develop the site to include a cultural centre, campground, community garden and gift store for First Nations crafts.
Several unpermitted structures were flagged by the PRRD for removal from the property to comply with zoning bylaws, including electrical and sewer infrastructure.
“By the time the Respondents learned that the Property was within the ALR, various dwellings and structures had been moved onto the Property and the campground had been constructed to a degree,” wrote Fitzpatrick.
“The Respondents say that they then stopped developing the Property in relation to the campground and other aspects of their business venture,” she added.
Camp shacks for employee housing were also added to the property, noted the judgment. With four dwellings in total, the property was two above what’s permitted under zoning bylaws.
“The Respondents have not pointed to any authority that engage ongoing attempts to rectify zoning, land use infractions or due diligence as a defence to enforcement of zoning or land use bylaws,” writes Fitzpatrick.
Furthermore, PRRD bylaw only allows home-based businesses for properties under 1.8 hectares, and from an approved list of business types, with the property being 17.8 hectares, well beyond the approved size for an A-2 zone.
Any property owners wishing to exclude their land from the ALR must make an application to the Agricultural Land Commission, with the support of the appropriate local government – which was the PRRD in this case.
An adjudication meeting was held in January 2022 for the PRRD, with one bylaw ticket being cancelled, as the adjudicator felt the owners were actively attempting to fix the ALR zoning issue, but did violate zoning bylaws by not checking the permit status of the structures.
Pringle and Shadow sought two exemptions from the Agricultural Land Commission (ALC), but were rejected in April 2021 and July 2020, ceasing development in November 2019, when they learned of the ALR status.
The ALC panel rejected the application on the basis that the campground is not an approved use under the ALC act, and was built without ALC approval or the required PRRD building permits.
“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 ALC Panel Chair Janice Tapp in July 2020.
Reconsideration was asked by the owners, but refused again by the ALC on Oct. 27, 2021, for the reasons stated in the previous rulings.
The ALC panel noted that a 10.7-hectare exclusion request by the owners wouldn’t be appropriate, despite leaving a campground green space of 7.1 hectares for gardening. Music festivals and camping are not consistent with Section 6 of the ALC act, and would not preserve agricultural use if allowed, the panel said.
Fitzpatrick said the couple must pay any bylaw penalties owed to the PRRD, with the regional district also entitled to costs incurred by the judicial review.
“I cannot discern any basis to refuse the relief sought by the PRRD,” wrote Fitzpatrick. “I conclude that relief is appropriate in the circumstances. I order that the penalty set out in Bylaw Notice 212 is immediately due and payable by the Respondents to the PRRD.”