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Court decision cutbacks commercial activity at The Lodge Property in Ucluelet

The Lodge can no longer host big events like weddings, conventions, reunions and retreats
The entrance to the Lodge Property on Reef Point Road in Ucluelet. (Westerly file photo)

Residents of Ucluelet’s Reef Point Beach Estates (RPBE) have “largely been successful” in a legal battle to enforce a building scheme with The Lodge Property, according to B.C. Supreme Court Judge Crerar.

The Lodge Property includes Lot 35 and Lot 37 and is part of the RPBE subdivision created in 1997.

On April 14, 2021, co-owner of The Lodge Ron Clayton was successful in his application to council to up-zone Lot 35 from Guest House to Tourist Commercial (CS-5) and Lot 37 from Single-Family Residential to Tourist Commercial.

In Sept. 2021, RPBE owners Mike Foy and Michelle Belanger petitioned the B.C. Supreme Court to enforce a building scheme against The Lodge Property that regulates the use of the lots.

“Council’s decision to up-zone The Lodge and Lot 37 to CS-5 Tourist Commercial, despite prohibitive restrictive covenants and a groundswell of opposition by property owners in (RPBE), left us no recourse but to launch a petition with the Supreme Court of B.C. to uphold the RPBE building scheme and thus preserve the residential nature of our subdivision,” wrote Belanger in an email.

On Nov. 24, 2022, nearly seven months after filing the petition, the Honourable Mr. Justice Crerar of the B.C. Supreme Court issued his judgement.

According to the Court, The Lodge can operate a maximum of eight suits on the top two floors of The Lodge, plus its three cabins may be commercially offered as tourist accommodation. The ground floor of The Lodge may not be commercially offered as accommodation and any tourist accommodation on Lot 35 requires a full-time resident manager on site.

Additionally, Judge Crerar wrote that “the respondent may not offer, host, solicit, or advertise large-scale events, including weddings, reunions, conventions, or retreats on Lot 35 or at The Lodge, as a commercial activity.”

Any development on Lot 37 must strictly comply with the building scheme, Judge Crerar went on to write. “More specifically, no staff housing or other housing beyond a single-family residential house may be constructed on Lot 37,” Judge Crerar wrote.

Clayton, owner and operator of The Lodge, wrote the following statement to the Westerly:

“The Lodge continues to evolve as a dynamic business that serves and employs members of the community. Recently, we received approval from the District of Ucluelet to make some changes that would further strengthen our business and contribute to the local economy, such as building staff housing, a public trail network and other amenities. However, the recent court proceeding has given some direction that has changed those plans somewhat, and we’re are no longer able to solicit large gatherings like weddings, receptions or conferences,” Clayton stated.

“It is important to follow the guidance of the court and adapt as needed to ensure the continued success of the business, the courts judgement confirms that the lodge can continue operating as a top-quality accommodation provider, and we are grateful for the opportunity to continue welcoming guests from around the world to experience the unparalleled beauty and tranquility of the West Coast of Vancouver Island. These are the hallmarks of the lodge and the cabins brand that our guest have come to know and love. In the new year, we will be recruiting skilled Innkeepers to help manage the day-to-day operations of The Lodge. I am excited to enter this new phase of our business and to continue contributing to the local economy. We have a great vision for the future of The Lodge, and The Cabins team remains committed to providing high-quality accommodations and experiences for our guest,” Clayton wrote.

Belanger said the petition process was “lengthy, burdensome, stressful and costly.”

“We are disappointed that we were forced to undertake it, but are happy to have been successful and that our efforts were not in vain. Justice Crerar’s decision confirms building schemes have teeth; they are legitimate legal instruments that create a local law, reflecting a community of interests. Their requirements are in addition to, and may go further than zoning restrictions. They can only be discharged by court order (or unanimous agreement of all of the property owners) and cannot simply be disregarded,” said Belanger.

“We hope the District (of Ucluelet) and local realtors will give due consideration to the issues addressed in this judgment when making future zoning decisions and advising their clients, respectively,” she went on to say. Based on the outcome of the Court, Belanger and Foy are entitled to their costs related to the petition.

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