TNRD is not coming after rural rights and RVs, chair says - InfoNews

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TNRD is not coming after rural rights and RVs, chair says

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Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Pexels
September 19, 2019 - 6:00 AM

KAMLOOPS - As some residents of Thompson Nicola Regional District continue to voice concerns about a bylaw that prohibits people from living in a recreational vehicle year-round, the board chair says they've got it wrong.

On Monday, a group of supporters gathered at a property in Barriere where a couple had been issued a notice to remove an RV from their lot. The notice was issued in May, and the couple says they have been working on obtaining a building permit which would allow them to stay. Regional district board chair Ken Gillis says the couple has not taken the necessary steps to ensure they can remain in the RV.

“Since May, I think they've had time to complete the building blueprints,” Gillis says. “If they came in and applied for the building permit, the heat would be off them… any pressure would be off them simply by their applying for a building permit.”

A Facebook group called Thompson Nicola RV Rights was started last month to voice concerns about the bylaw and now has nearly 800 members. Now, members are considering creating a not-for-profit organization called B.C. Rural Rights Association. Gillis says members have incorrect information regarding the bylaw.

“They’re suggesting that the bylaw is being changed,” Gillis says. “The bylaw is not set to change, same bylaw as always.”

Although people involved in the issue have been fighting against potential evictions, Gillis says the regional district has never issued an eviction notice. He refers to the notices as ‘removal orders’ and says in the last decade only a few orders have led to the removal of an RV.

“I think that we've had two or three of those in the last ten years, so it’s not as if it’s the big, bad regional district taking single mothers and their children and feeble old seniors in wheelchairs and throwing them out onto the road,” Gillis says. “Issuing ‘removal orders’ and that sort of thing, is a long, long, process. It doesn’t happen overnight, people don't need to live in fear. There's been a lot of fear-mongering… we've got people now who are legitimately frightened and have no real reason to be.” 

The regional district issued a press release in August addressing the bylaw, but Gillis says the community response has been overwhelming and misguided.

“All we wanted to do was make people aware… somehow or other, it's morphed into an existential threat for the people who live in RVs,” Gillis says. “The four horsemen of the apocalypse came down on us. It was never intended to frighten people, it was never intended to cause such fervor as it has caused.”

Gillis notes that the TNRD works on a complaint-driven basis when issuing removal orders for those living in RVs. He says many of the people speaking on the issue have referenced a ‘crackdown’ on those living in RVs, which he says is not the case.

“We have one bylaw officer throughout the entire regional district who covers I think 45,000 square kilometers and we could not initiate a crackdown if we wanted to, and we don't want to,” Gillis says.

Gillis says the bylaw preventing year-round RV occupation is to ensure safety, proper regulatory processes, and consideration for the environment and neighbours.

“How many of those allegedly proper septic systems have been installed according to the Interior Health Authority requirements? Maybe some have, but I would suspect that many probably haven't been,” Gillis says. “In some cases where people live year-round in RVs, they build shanties alongside them and it becomes kind of an eyesore in some cases and the people next door have a right to be protected from that sort of activity.”

A sign that was brought to the protest at Duane and Angie Smith's property.
A sign that was brought to the protest at Duane and Angie Smith's property.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK - Thompson Nicola RV Rights

In addition to the concern of a potential eyesore, Gillis says the bylaw is in place to ensure residents are safe.

“RVs are constructed in compliance with the Canadian Standard Association, not according to the B.C. Building Code. And their requirements are specific to RVs, you couldn't even send a building inspector out to look at them because they're regulated under the Motor Vehicle Act, not regulated under the B.C. Building Code,” Gillis says. “They do not meet the standards required for permanent dwelling use.”

Although there are no scheduled discussions with members of the Facebook group or proposed not-for-profit, Gillis says he would be open to meeting with members. Gillis says there are points that need to be clarified, such as the extent of one’s rights on their own property.

“There's been a lot of comments to the effect of ‘We have the right to do whatever we want on our property,’ well that’s not the case. There’s zoning in effect in the TNRD from wall to wall,” Gillis says. “Nobody in the last 100 years has had the right to do what he or she pleased on their own property.”

When asked what options are available for those issued a ‘removal order,’ Gillis said there are some RV parks that will offer year-round spaces, although he wouldn’t be pleased to be in such a situation. 

“When I bought my property, I talked to the TNRD about putting an RV on it while I had the house built, there was no problem whatsoever,” Gillis says. “I wouldn't be very happy with that alternative if, in fact, I owned my own property and I wanted to live on it.”

Gillis says some leniency may be given to those living in an RV on their property if they had proper septic, water, and electricity hookups, as well as a building permit or a plan to move a mobile, manufactured home onto the property. He also says that some leeway is given to those who are living in an RV due to hardships.

“There are in some cases extenuating circumstances, there are in some cases undue hardship. We've always been willing to listen. We have on occasion been known to make exceptions,” Gillis says.

For now, Gillis says there are no plans to make any changes to the current bylaw. He says it has been this way for decades and will not change any time soon. He says that making changes to the bylaw could do more harm than good.

“There's a suggestion that there's a prohibition on camping... it's not prohibited, there's nothing in the bylaw speaking to that,” Gillis says. “People should be careful what they wish for in the sense that if we had to incorporate something into a bylaw… at that point we couldn't leave it open-ended, it would be irresponsible to keep it open-ended. It's open-ended now but it would be irresponsible under those circumstances if we specifically permitted it, not to put some kind of a time limit on it. So my thoughts on that one is if it ain't broke, don't fix it.”


To contact a reporter for this story, email Jenna Wheeler or call (250) 819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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