Land use concept plan for Ucluelet Harbour Seafoods temporary staff housing for 25 Recreational Vehicles on the property at 1970 Harbour Crescent. DISTRICT OF UCLUELET IMAGE

Employee housing solution for Ucluelet Harbour Seafoods debated

“This is desperation for us trying to find some temporary housing in a [town] that we need it badly.”

An application put forward by Ucluelet Harbour Seafoods (UHS), Ucluelet’s major fish processing plant, for a Temporary Use Permit (TUP) for employee housing incited a lengthy discussion at the June 25 regular council meeting.

The TUP would allow up to 25 Recreational Vehicles on the property of 1970 Harbour Crescent, which neighbours the Ucluelet Campground and the Water’s Edge Resort.

District staff received over a dozen letters from residents expressing concerns or downright disapproval for UHS’s temporary staff housing solution for the fish plant workers.

“This is desperation for us trying to find some temporary housing in a [town] that we need it badly,” said Dave Dawson, general manager for Canadian operations for Pacific Seafood, the parent company of UHS.

Noise pollution, sewage, garbage disposal, lack of parking, and by-law enforcement were noted as some of the main concerns.

Brent Hohlweg, Ucluelet resident and director of marketing for Water’s Edge, was particularly troubled by the work camp idea.

“I just don’t see how I’m going to be able to market an industrial RV park as a peaceful experience coming to Ucluelet. It’s not the same as family-friendly camping situation that’s just up the road. That has a different image in somebody’s mind,” he said.

Hohlweg stated that Water’s Edge is Ucluelet’s second top resort and pulls in $7.8 million for the local economy. He said the resort employs 30 year-round staff and hosts more than 13,000 guests annually.

The UHS plant, by comparison, employs between 45-60 people per 12-hour shift and about 35 full-time fishers. Management says they could use another 50 fish plant workers to maximize production.

Bill Carver addressed mayor and council on behalf of the Water’s Edge Rental Society, representing 50 suites.

“The concerns that we have as the owners and management team is the negative impact that temporary housing has. I can speak from my previous role of being a police officer. Whether it be in an oil camp, whether it be in a social housing, trying to mitigate the noise and trying to properly police, for lack of a better word, these types of temporary housing can be extremely challenging,” said Carver.

“We are a hospitality industry business,” he continued. “We can’t have complaints of owners being woken up. We have complaints of owners being woken up by barking sea lions so, again, the challenge is how do we ensure this is low-impact housing?”

Dawson tackled some of the concerns raised by the public.

He said UHS would have someone onsite to patrol the camp and that sewage will be approved by Island Health. Planting trees and putting up a fence would improve the sightline, Dawson assured.

“These people are not campers. I’m a camper. When I go camping, I have a few drinks and light a bonfire and have a good time. But, these guys are working 12-hour days. They are going to sleep because they are working 12 hours tomorrow. I think you’ll find it quieter than a family-friendly campground,” said Dawson, adding that the RV camp will probably be better than the equipment and junk that is currently on the lot.

The property earmarked for the TUP employee housing is on lease to UHS. The current zoning for the site is Industrial.

Mayor Noel said he understands the public concerns but, at the end of the day, the lot is still zoned for industrial use.

“Tomorrow, the owner of that plant could open up a fish plant. They could have boats in there, they could have forklift traffic. What would that look like? I just want to remind everybody that it is an industrial plant,” said Noel.

After further discussion regarding noise and emergency response, mayor and council concluded that more information was needed before moving forward with the application.

A site tour with UHS management and Water’s Edge stakeholders prior to the next regular meeting on July 9 was decided.

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READ MORE: West Coast sailing rough employment seas to help fish processing thrive

READ MORE: Ucluelet allows RV’s to be seasonal housing

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