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Appeal court sinks houseboater's legal challenge

Houseboats moored in Gellatly Bay were the subject of a lengthy legal battle that culminated in victory for West Kelowna.
January 11, 2015 - 11:23 AM

WEST KELOWNA — Mayor Doug Findlater is savouring the latest B.C. Court of Appeal ruling that again backs the district’s right to govern live-aboard houseboats moored off its shores.

“It’s been a long, long, battle, over seven years,” he said of the precedent-setting case that pitted local government against houseboat-owners intent on mooring long-term in the district’s bays and inlets.

Complaints from onshore residents prompted West Kelowna in 2009 to introduce a zoning policy allowing recreational use only on the waters bordering the community. An agreement with the Westbank First Nation smoothed the way for the district to obtain a license of occupation for its foreshore lands and the ability to enforce the policy.

The district began evicting squatting houseboats in 2010, giving notice to an initial 13 boats in Gellatly Bay, and pushing many of them to other locations on the lake.

Houseboaters initially fought back, launching a petition seeking support from the public. When the support failed to materialize, one determined house-boater, Keith Newcomb, launched a constitutional challenge to West Kelowna’s claim of jurisdiction.

A decision in the case was reached last August but appealed immediately by Newcomb. Today’s ruling dismisses his appeal of the original ruling, which also sided with the district.

“We have won the right to zone water and the land under it,” Findlater added, although the district cannot prevent moorage for short periods of time. “This is precedent setting and I know Kelowna and other communities are watching this closely.”

Findlater said the latest ruling ends the fractious matter, unless Newcomb decides to appeal to the B.C. Supreme Court.

To contact the reporter for this story, email John McDonald at or call 250-808-0143. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

News from © iNFOnews, 2015

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