It happens every year.
Landowners who haven’t been up to the Lake much over the winter arrive and set up their RVs and campsites on their residential properties to enjoy a summer by the water.
It sounds like a fantastic way to spend the season but the problem is it’s not always legal and neighbours aren’t always in favour of the seasonal influx. Neighbours like Cowichan Lake’s Michael Loseth.
“Because today it is Lake Cowichan, tomorrow it will be Mesachie Lake, Shawnigan Lake, then Cobble Hill, Cowichan Bay, and so on,” he wrote in a letter to the Lake Cowichan Gazette. “We live in a beautiful part of the world — but camping must be restricted to campsites — not next door to where you or I live.”
Ladysmith’s Chris Fritsch is among a group of property owners who have asked the CVRD to rezone 15 properties on Nantree and Peri roads in Meade Creek to permit up to three RVs on each of the residential lots.
“It’s actually been going on for 50 years,” Fritsch said. “It’s nothing new. It’s just we’re trying to get on a legal footing.”
Fritsch explained the lots in this particular case are on a flood plain and so proper houses are difficult to construct.
“You can’t really build unless you put four or five feet of fill on top of the existing properties,” he said. “Some of the property owners who have houses don’t have the same flooding problems that we do, they’re against it,” he noted. “They cite various reasons. They think it should be residential period but they don’t seem to grasp the concept that you can’t build on flood plains.”
Fritsch just wants to be able to enjoy his land with his family when things dry out in the summer.
Noise is one reason neighbours are against permitting camping in residential areas, but the bulk of the noise in his neighbourhood comes from a beach park nearby that generates a lot of noise during peak season. Property owners have no control over that noise, Fritsch noted.
“It’s used by all sorts of folks from Youbou and Lake Cowichan so it gets pretty busy and gets noisy,” he said.
There’s an argument to be made that if a house was built there instead of parking an RV, noise would be generated just the same.
“It’s contentious for a variety of reasons but some of the opposition in our area is just over the top,” Fritsch said. “It doesn’t make sense. There’s no common sense involved, especially since we’ve been using it more or less that way since the late ’60s.”
The controversial application has been the subject of a public hearing and directors have yet to give final readings to a new bylaw.
Electoral Area Services chair Ian Morrison, the director for Area F (Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls) said no doubt the impact of directors’ pending decision could make waves throughout the Valley, especially in places like Shawnigan Lake.
“Whatever the outcome of this application, it can inform that land use question in other areas,” he said. “I’m going to go into the meeting with my mind open.”
Morrison did note the issue in general is certianly not new.
“We’ve been experiencing them for years in Honeymoon Bay,” he said. “There are concerns from people who depend on the zoning for the quiet enjoyment of their property and are all of a sudden inundated by, in some cases, a few RVs or trailers and in other cases it turns into party central with people trying to turn a big buck and they don’t have the zoning. This is problematic.”