District gives more time for Morello cleanup

Some directors unsure of why original cleanup order was imposed on Nanoose Bay couple in the first place

Ann Barber passes out information about her Nanoose Bay property to Paul Thorkelson Tuesday night.

Ann Barber passes out information about her Nanoose Bay property to Paul Thorkelson Tuesday night.

The Regional District of Nanaimo this week gave an extension to a Nanoose Bay couple to clean up their property after acknowledging they’ve mostly taken care of the problem.

Despite the break however, Ann Barber ended the evening close to tears.

Her five-acre property on Morello Road had been cited as unsightly after the RDN received a complaint about the machinery and other items stored there by husband Wayne.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Barber made a plea to directors to withdraw their cleanup order, noting that while she had been cited for keeping derelict machinery, none of it was, in fact derelict at all. Rather, she said, they were part of her husband’s collection and virtually all of them were functional. She noted the property had been used to store some debris from a rental property that had been left badly damaged by tenants, but all that had either been recycled or otherwise cleaned up.

“Wayne collects and restores antique machinery,” she said in her comments to Tuesday’s committee of the whole meeting. “He loves to preserve history and hopes to open a machine museum on a different property when I retire.”

She acknowledged there are two boats on the property, both of which are used by the couple, and both vehicles stored there are licensed and working.

Building materials stored at the site, she said, are being used to repair a workshop that was damaged by a falling tree.

Barber was backed up by two Errington residents, who had offered to help her build a tall fence around the property, even though the materials stored there are not visible from the road.

Brian Sangster-Kelly said bylaw officers were asked to define exactly what needed to be done, but refused to do so.

“Silence is all she got,” he said in his comments to the board. “She was willing to problem-solve, but all she got was intimidation.”

Enid Mary Sangster-Kelly also spoke, calling on the district to treat Barber with honour and respect — something she intimated had not been the case to date.

Commenting on the presentation, Area F alternate director Leann Salter read a statement from director Julian Fell, which called on the RDN to rescind the cleanup order.

“The word ‘derelict’ means wrecked and abandoned,” she said. “In this case, the items are not abandoned. They are awaiting restoration and they have a useful purpose. This is a hobby that is constructive.”

She called the order legally suspect and said the unsightliness of the property — which is heavily treed around the perimeter – is very subjective.

“Punishing someone for a matter of opinion is like punishing them for their religion,” she read. “This is beyond the legal application and intent of the law.”

Salter and Fell were not alone. City of Nanaimo director Jim Kipp also waded in to the defence of the beleaguered couple.

“The pictures didn’t seem to be what I consider a serious breach,” he said. “I could show you pictures from Nanaimo that would make your skin crawl. It seems subjective. It didn’t look like the property was out of order. It’s rural. Where are we going with the cleanup of Vancouver Island?”

Board manager Paul Thorkelson said staff attended the site earlier on Tuesday and found that a great deal of work had been done.

“It’s clear there has been significant progress on the property,” he said. “I think this is quite close to reaching an adequate level of compliance.

Because the cleanup order had already been voted on at the June 26 meeting and subsequently acted upon, the motion to rescind the order was ruled out of order, prompting Nanaimo director Diana Johnstone to move that Barber be given an additional 90 days to complete the cleanup. This motion carried.

That was good news, but not good enough for Barber, who said that because the bylaw officer wouldn’t define exactly what needed to be done at the site, she and her husband are still faced with the prospect of having to send all his machinery to the scrapyard.