Skip to content

Length of stay in RVs debated by Regional District of Nanaimo committee

Zoning bylaw update deferred
(PQB News photo)

The Regional District of Nanaimo is making amendments to its zoning bylaw.

The Bylaw 500 Review and Update Project was initiated by RDN staff members. Bylaw 500 was renamed Bylaw 2500 and was given first reading by the RDN board in January. The process included public engagements and open houses that were held across the region. As well, an online survey was conducted.

RDN senior planner Greg Keller presented a draft of Bylaw 2500 at the Electoral Areas Services Committee meeting on May 9 for consideration for second reading. The goal is to amend Bylaw 500 by clarifying, correcting, to make it more consistent and less challenging to administer and enforce.

Keller said it has been a very successful project in terms of online community engagement, drawing more than 6,000 visitors to the RDN’s Get Involved Page.

“It’s one of the highest that I have seen in the RDN,” said Keller, who added that they received 59 responses to the current survey.

“And the majority of the survey respondents, or at least the outcome of the survey, seems to suggest that the majority of the proposed changes have some level of support,” he said.

The common themes noted by staff that garnered the most support included secondary suites regulation, building heights, retaining wall regulation, minimum setback requirements, removal of the minimum site requirements and home-based business.

Keller also highlighted several main issues raised by the community and also drew concerns from the RDN directors. They included the number of shipping containers that can be used as a home and also the length of time that people can live in a recreation vehicle.

At present there are no bylaws that allow shipping containers. Because it’s a complex issue, a temporary solution was recommended for permitting and regulating shipping containers. Keller said this will allow staff to further review the bylaw and to better gauge community perspective on shipping containers with respect to community character, preference and aesthetics.

The proposed changes include allowing a maximum of two containers on industrial zoned parcels and one container on all other properties one hectare in size or more. Keller pointed out the lack of a limiting factor in the maximum number of shipping containers that the bylaw allows could lead to abuse and future enforcement challenges.

Keller said Bylaw 500 also does not allow people to live in RVs for long periods of time. It only permits seasonal and limited stays for the travelling public in a camping space. To give clarity to the rules, staff proposed the bylaw clearly indicate people can live in their RVs for six months in a year.

Electoral Area F (Coombs, Hilliers, Errington, Whiskey Creek, Meadowood) director Leanne Salter said they’ve received a lot of letters from people in the region raising concerns about losing their ability to live in their RV. She cited that there is an affordable housing crisis and asked how this can be mitigated if people cannot reside in RVs for longer periods of time.

General manager of development and emergency services, Lisa Grant, indicated the goal of the bylaw review is to improve it and is not the platform to address affordable housing in the region.

It is a separate issue, Grant pointed out, that the board will be able to address during the housing assessment process the RDN needs to complete by the end of the year.

“I think the difficulty is that they’re not constructed for permanent living, however, given the state of housing we know that that actually happens,” said Grant, who also pointed out bylaw officers have not been enforcing the length-of-stay restriction on people living in RVs full-time due to the ongoing housing crisis.

“By no means we want to say that we haven’t heard residents, we have,” she said.

“We recognize it. We just don’t think that the bylaw is the right place to respond to that issue because it’s much larger. But we are not anticipating going in and taking action or enforcement against people that are residing in those places.”

Grant said house safety and proper servicing needs to be considered and are important for people who have no other affordable options of housing but to live in RVs.

“We want to make sure that takes place in a situation where they do have servicing and it’s safe to live there,” said Grant.

Salter made a motion that would allow people to continue living in RVs while the work to improve the bylaw is is ongoing.

“I think people are extremely concerned right now and who wouldn’t be,” said Salter. “It’s their home. This may at least help them sleep at night.”

That committee endorsed the recommendation the board direct staff to prepare a report proposing options to address concerns with length of stay in a recreational vehicle. Area E (Nanoose Bay) director and EASC chair Bob Rogers was opposed.

Area H (Bowser, Qualicum Bay, Deep Bay) director Stuart McLean then made a recommendation to defer second reading of Bylaw 2500 to the June meeting and also the motion to hold the required public hearing on the bylaw. He said they need more time to process and give consideration to an important document.

The committee passed McLean’s motion. Rogers was opposed as he felt they have had the document for a long time and had significant opportunity for review, saying it is time to move forward.

Michael Briones

About the Author: Michael Briones

I rejoined the PQB News team in April 2017 from the Comox Valley Echo, having previously covered sports for The NEWS in 1997.
Read more