Neighbours go head to head over zoning in Lake Cowichan

Zoning issues came up in a recent town hall meeting.

Zoning issues came up in a recent town hall meeting. A public forum was held on Oct. 28 to discuss the re-zoning of two properties from R-1 to C-1.

The first property is Reindeer’s Natural Plant Foods, a business that runs out of Stuart Schuitema’s home at #7 North Shore Road. Schuitema applied for rezoning of his property from residential to commercial so that he could expand the activities on his property as well as possibly open up a storefront.

“Right now we don’t sell to the public and we’d like to open it up. We don’t provide any harm to the public; they’re all organic plants foods,” said Schuitema.

Schuitema’s neighbours aren’t too happy about the prospect.

Scott Lockner and Bruce Smith live adjacent to Schuitema’s property. Relations between the neighbours have apparently deteriorated over the years due to the business performing activities that Lockner and Smith have complaint with. Smith believes that activities performed by Schuitema’s business fall under industrial zoning.

“Approximately three years ago when Mr. Schuitema erected his warehouse, we were friends and we were fine with it just as long as it was confined to the building,” said Smith.

According to the two, since then the noise and road blockage from the plant food business has increased and they also believe that the plant food has increased the rat population.

“We find dead rat carcasses in our backyard, apparently poisoned, putting our own dog and cat at risk,” said Smith.

Schuitema had little to say to the accusations raised by his neighbours, simply stating his case of application to Council for re-zoning, and mentioning that he had been in business for 14 years at the same property.

Smith also stated that they submitted the complaint in 2013 to Joe Fernandez, Chief Administrative Officer of Lake Cowichan.

“Since our initial complaint unfolded on March 7, 2013, sent to Mr. Fernandez, we were told to retain counsel to interpret the bylaws and then denied access to the bylaw officer.”

Smith and Lockner then submitted their report to the ombudsman’s office in March 2014.

“After their investigation, the Town conceded it had not done a full investigation. Finally the bylaw officer was permitted to approach us and our neighbours to look into the matter about two months ago.”

Both parties stated their case to Council as part of the normal process of applying for re-zoning. The council will now review the notes from the public hearing, do any personal research they would like on the topic, and then make a decision for or against the application on Nov. 25.

The other property applying for re-zoning was an individual who hopes to get permission to perform mechanics work from his shop. There were no complaints with his application.