District cites ‘obstruction,’ issues $300 fine to owner of guesthouse

Despite having his 2014 business license in hand, Tofino Travellers Guesthouse owner Nick Jacquet is at odds with the District of Tofino. Again.

The district advised Jacquet that complaints have come in regarding his guesthouse’s operations and district bylaw enforcement officer Robert Letts arrived at the Guesthouse on Saturday around 9 a.m. to take photographic evidence.

Jacquet refused to allow Letts inside the guesthouse to take pictures and this refusal resulted in Letts fining Jacquet about $300 for obstruction.

Letts declined to comment at length for this article, but he said he had given Jacquet ample notice for when the photos would be taken but Jacquet requested Letts get a court injunction before entering the premises.

“Why he’s getting denied is so that he can’t come in, in the morning, when people are sleeping, to take photos,” Jacquet said.

Jacquet butted heads with the district last year after his application for a 2013 business license was initially denied and despite the two sides working it out last year they are back at it again, despite Jacquet obtaining his 2014 license with little fanfare this year.

“It was just cleared a month and a bit ago; they were here and they checked the place out,” he said. “They went through it all with the building inspector, the fire inspector, and it was all clear and now they want to come back and take photos? What for? “Who in Tofino would let these bylaw officers come into their bedroom and take photos?” he asked.

Jacquet said he hopes the bylaw officer will work with him to arrange an appropriate time for photographic evidence to be collected but said Letts has been inflexible with his schedule.

“I think you’ve got to stand your ground with these people,” Jacquet said.

“It’s gone too far. It’s time to bring it back and have a bit of respect and that’s what this is all about,” Jacquet said, adding that he feels the district isn’t prepared to work with him.

He said he has attempted to get specific information about the complaints from the district but the information he received after a Freedom of Information Request was significantly blacked-out.

“They don’t want to have transparency; the district doesn’t want to know how much they’ve spent on lawyers,” he said. “If they had complete transparency they’d sit down with parties and say ‘hey look this is the problem, we need to solve this.'” He said he has reached out to the district office but has been unable to have a fruitful conversation. “There’s no way to work things out; it’s almost like the relationship is contentious, it’s not an open thing where we work together to solve issues it’s a contentious relationship, it’s me against them,” he said. “They seem to think there’s this big divide between the two of us.”

The district has accused the guesthouse of operating with too many employees under Tofino’s zoning bylaw 770, 1997, but Jacquet disagrees with the complainant’s interpretation of “employee.”

“(Guests) come for a couple of weeks or sometimes just a few days and do some gardening and now they’re suddenly an employee,” he asked.

Other complaints the district claims to have received regarding the Guesthouse include operating overcapacity, using rooftop as deck, signage with no permit, and operating a B&B with over three rooms. Jacquet said he’s hoping to hash out these concerns with the district office and said council has not been supportive.

“They’ve come out with these ridiculous rules, you can’t do this, you can’t do that.. They say it’s for the good but really it’s just a form of control and abuse,” he said noting several Tofino councillors run accommodations of their own.

“What interest do they have in making other people more successful?” He is confident his business will continue to operate despite the district’s concerns. “I have a business license; a total licensed operation. They can say whatever they want; the fact is, they gave me a business license,” he said.

“There’s no way they’re going to shut down a little mom-and-pop business. They may spend another $10,000 trying it and wasting more time and money of our tax payers, but they can’t close me down.”