Work on a new addition to Pacific Sands Beach Resort in Tofino lead to protected trees being removed. (Photo - Nora O’Malley)

Work on a new addition to Pacific Sands Beach Resort in Tofino lead to protected trees being removed. (Photo - Nora O’Malley)

Tofino resort correcting permit errors

“They seem to want to work with the district to make it right.”

Pacific Sands Beach Resort has some amends to make after installing staff housing units without a permit and removing foliage from an area they weren’t supposed to touch.

The resort recently expanded its accommodation operation by way of a new, roughly 40-unit building, which passed through a development permit process and design review panel assessment with ease but, according to Tofino’s manager of community sustainability Aaron Rodgers, “things went a little bit sideways,” during the building’s construction when foliage was removed from an area within 50 metres of the ocean that’s protected to help prevent beach erosion.

“They had some contractors go in there and take out some vegetation including one or two large trees,” he said. “Significant trees, there’s no bones about it, but the damage is done. So, do we rectify it through court, which is expensive and acrimonious? Or do we try to work with the property owner to revegetate and provide some recourse for what they’ve done?”

He said the beach’s structural integrity and potential erosion is a key concern and that Pacific Sands will need to replant foliage and pay for an environmental professional to assess and repair any damage.

“Our interactions with them have been very positive and they seem to want to work with the district to make it right,” he added.

In an email to the Westerly News, the resort’s general manager Shane Richards said he and his team are engaged in correcting the situation.

“Myself, my partners at Pacific Sands Beach Resort and our team are very excited about the new addition to our property and the community of Tofino. We have worked closely with the District of Tofino through the permitting process to be mindful of their mission and the community’s best interests,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, during excavation of some of the drainage area at the southwest corner of the property there was some foliage removed by our team. The district notified us that this was not part of our original development permit and we immediately submitted an additional permit, while at the same time contracting a landscape team with a biological study to rectify this point. It is our utmost concern to remedy this quickly within District requirements and ensure the sustainability and longevity of the shoreline.”

Richards added Pacific Sands is owner-operated and its team cares about the local environment.

“I have lived in the community for seven-plus years, hope to be here for many years to come and am committed to the community, the District of Tofino’s longterm suitability plan and this goes beyond our property and Cox Bay to the entire community,” he wrote.

The resort is also treading through some hot water regarding six trailers, that contain 20 staff-housing units and were installed without a permit.

“As you are aware, and has been well documented through the Westerly News, there is a housing crisis in Tofino—that really hits home with the service staff in the community,” Richards said. “We had the opportunity to purchase 20 sleeping units and jumped at the chance to add more than the one unit required and did so to support our staff. The units that we added are CSA approved industrial modular housing manufactured in Alberta. Through this process, it was brought to our attention that an additional permit was required. That has since been submitted. We look forward to working with the district to ensure the 20 units of long term housing stay in Tofino and to support our staff.”

Rodgers said the units popped up without the district knowing until a complaint sparked an investigation.

“With the staff housing crunch, people are reacting to that and, sometimes, they may get a little ahead of themselves in their need to provide staff housing,” he said. “The district has, in the past, been perceived as a body that might be a bit slower on processing developments, such as building permits. I don’t think that’s the case anymore. The process is actually efficient and working quite quickly now and triply so once we have a building inspector here three days a week.”

Pacific Sands’ 20 new units are prohibited from being occupied until a permit is granted and, Rodgers said, that permit will be the first priority for Tofino’s new building inspector Reed Cassidy, who started his new job on Monday.

“Any type of development application, including building permits, that deal with staff housing or affordable housing go right to the top of our piles. That’s a direction council gave us about a year ago that we adhere to everyday,” Rodgers said. “It comes down to health and safety…Affordable housing or not, it has to go through that process because we can’t be putting people into unsafe places.”

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