A group of 15 property owners from Marble Bay, just west of Lake Cowichan, have asked the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) to make amendments to their current zoning bylaws in order to allow RVs and other camping vehicles to be set up on their property. While these conditions have already existed in Marble Bay for some time, outside of regulation, the request has caused an uproar from neighbouring residents, who see its request as “setting a bad precedent” that will greatly impact the watershed itself.
Current CVRD Area I bylaws state that “a tent, trailer, recreational vehicle, park model unit, bus or other motor vehicle must not be used as a residence” in an R2 single-family dwelling. Marble Bay resident Dalton Smith argued that despite zoning restrictions being in place since 1975, little enforcement has led to those very conditions being common along Nantree Road and Peri Road.
Smith, along with Michael Loseth, gave a presentation at last week’s town council meeting in Lake Cowichan, asking council for their support in opposing the proposed bylaw amendment.
Smith assured council that the opposition was not an example of NIMBY (Not In My BackYard), and that the main concern for him and other residents is the contamination of the watershed.
Smith said that he had seen trailers with no improved septic systems dumping raw sewage into Cowichan Lake and on the ground, especially concerning, he noted, due to the fact that the neighbourhood is located on a flood plain.
“I don’t mind if they camp out once in a while, but they’re dumping raw sewage into out water,” Smith said. “Its especially troubling with the high turbidity levels we’re seeing now. I think it could be a compounding factor.”
Members of council, including councillor Bob Day, who also sits on the CVRD board, expressed concern over the proposed amendment, particularly with the potential effect it would have on the town’s drinking water.
“I don’t think placing recreation in a residential zone is a good idea, personally,” councillor Tim McGonigle said.
“We should have more information on whether or not its affecting our drinking water,” Mayor Ross Forrest added.
Aside from sewage concerns, Smith’s presentation also noted that residents are concerned with parking issues, noise, disruption and the effect that more campers could have on property values.
At a public meeting on Monday evening (May 11), supporters of the bylaw amendment were vehement on staying in the area, as many have been living in similar arrangements for several decades. The residents also noted that several of them had dug outhouses, similar to the ones installed on the nearby public beach.