Owners of properties currently encroaching on lands owned by the Town of Qualicum Beach will have more time to deal with the issue.
Mayor Brian Wiese made successful motion at the regular council meeting on May 27, to direct staff to provide a report on town encroachments and put on hold any fees charged until September.
Property owners were already given notice by the town to correct any encroachments or pay the fees by June 1, which can be in the thousands of dollars. They will be informed again that the deadline has now been extended to September.
“I just want to re-look at the numbers,” said Wiese. “Some of the numbers that I have been receiving just seem a little out of reach.”
The encroachment dilemma in town has been ongoing for more than a decade. It caught some property owners by surprise when they suddenly received notices from the town.
Earlier this year, the Qualicum Beach Residents Association asked the town for clarification as some property owners were not aware of their encroachments onto town-owned land. They wanted to know why there was no public discussion held on the issue.
“We are wanting to understand why after 17 years of silence, with no immediate plans for using the land, has town staff been directed to give notification with unrealistic timelines and ultimatums to these property owners,” QBRA president Doug Mackay-Dunn stated in a letter to the town on Jan. 13. “The notice and process, completely void of empathy as to how this news might surprise and impact your taxpayers was delivered in the midst of a pandemic no less.”
Mackay-Dunn said they understand the need to address the issue of encroachments but they would like to see solutions that are fair and reasonable and raised in a public forum.
Coun. Scott Harrison supported the motion and favours public discussion that will include the general formula that town has adopted for the fees to charge property owners for using town-owned land.
“Some emails I see, there’s a bit of debate as to whether they should be charged as though it was taxed for their land or whether it’s a lease, and that’s essentially renting public land,” said Harrison. “And I think, having a public debate provide some clarity about how the formula was derived, whether the principles in play would be beneficial.”
Coun. Teunis Westbroek agreed that the policy should be reviewed again.
“The intent was always to have something on their title that if they were using town land that so future buyers would know that they’re actually buying and what is not part of their property,” said Westbroek.