North Cowichan is hoping to hear sometime soon whether the province’s Agricultural Land Commission will exclude the Chemainus River Campground from the Agricultural Land Reserve.
Mayor Al Siebring told council at its meeting on March 2 that he, CAO Ted Swabey, and North Cowichan’s director of building and planning Rob Conway toured the 22.33-acre property a few months ago with the two Island commissioners for the ALC and, once again, made the case why the property should be removed from the ALR.
He said the reasons include the lack of agricultural capacity on most of the land, the need for massive amounts of water from the Chemainus River should the land be used for agriculture, and the history of approvals and mistakes that were made with respect to the property.
Siebring said the mistakes include the approval from the ALC to put camp sites within what today would be considered riparian areas that wouldn’t be suitable under current regulations.
“Then on Feb. 17, Mr. Conway, Mr. Swabey and myself met one last time with the two commissioners to make our case,” Siebring said.
“They will now formally consider our application and it’s not clear when we will get an answer, but we look forward to the outcome of this longstanding issue.”
In 2019, the owners of the Chemainus River Campground, John and Jeri Wyatt, were on the verge of being shut down before being given a last-minute reprieve as the ALC insisted that, as the property is within the ALR, it could only be used for agricultural purposes and not for a campground, even though it had been operating in that fashion since 2003.
When the Wyatts first bought the property, it was agricultural land that allowed campgrounds under A2 zoning, but that has since changed.
North Cowichan’s council stepped in at the time and passed a motion to direct staff to submit a notice to the ALC under Section 29 of the ALC Act to exclude the Chemainus River Campground lands from the ALR.
The Wyatts, who, along with the strong support for their cause from North Cowichan and support from community in the form of more than 1,000 signatures, were allowed to keep operating the campground until the ALC made its decision, which was further delayed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Siebring told council at the meeting on March 2 that if the application to remove the property from the ALR fails, he believes the municipality would still have one more avenue to appeal to the full ALR.