Fears of being pushed into Tofino’s longstanding housing crisis were allayed for residents of Tofino’s Crab Apple Campground this month as the site’s temporary use permit was extended by three years.
This is the fourth time the 32-site residential campground at at 1141 Pacific Rim Highway has received a permit to continue providing housing for local workers with the latest TUP being for a six-month term that was set to expire on April 30.
Council made the decision to grant the three-year extension during their April 7 regular meeting after reviewing a report from district planner Jill Patterson who recommended the renewal.
Patterson explained that the campground has changed hands and the new owner has reached out to the district to engage in a rezoning application and create a permanent solution, rather than rely on repeated temporary use permits.
“We’re looking at this application as a bridge to permanent change,” she said. “We’re exploring the feasibility of some permanent, affordable housing options.”
She said the campground currently “meets the immediate need for affordable staff housing,” and that a housing agreement has been put in place to ensure sites are being rented to residents working in the community at affordable rates.
“Because the new owner is showing an interest in creating a long-term change and has expressed interest in developing something that works for the community and is willing to work with (district) staff, that’s really the only reason why it’s been brought to the table,” she said. “Knowing there’s been a number of TUPs that have come forth and council’s appetite in extending the temporary use for this property may be wearing thin, I thought it was important to incorporate.”
Coun. Cathy Thicke expressed concern over the three-year term.
“The lack of revenue that perhaps the district has also lost in this process, we can’t say that’s not important, the (development cost charges) the appropriate taxes, all of those things,” she said. “It becomes a burden on somebody else….From a taxpayer’s point of view, I’m hesitant to consider three years.”
She suggested she would be more comfortable with one or two years.
“I know they’re asking for the maximum, but I’m suggesting the minimum,” she said.
Patterson countered that the three-year term would allow more time for a permanent solution to be hashed out.
“There was consideration given for the length of time required for developing a bit of a plan, knowing that there are some complexities and some challenges with this development,” she said. “The timeline is going to allow staff to be able to address all these things and allow the rezoning process, which can be quite lengthy.”
She added that if the rezoning application isn’t successful, the campground would still have had “three years of providing affordable housing to local staff.”
Coun. Al Anderson said he supported the three-year permit, adding though that the district would need to keep a close eye on the site to make sure it’s being managed properly.
“I want to ensure that the caretaker is doing their job and that those safety measures are being met,” he said.
Coun. Duncan McMaster agreed and suggested the new owner “deserves a chance to improve the place.”
“Having said that, after three years, I think every one of us will be watching it to see whether we would go for another three-year term, based on the history of the previous owner,” he said.
Coun. Jacky Challenger also supported the three-year term, noting the campground has been difficult for council to navigate and the previous owner had been repeatedly “urged” to present a more long-term solution.
“I do think that the current owner has done just that and come forward with a creative solution,” she said.
Coun. Britt Chalmers said she was happy to see the new owner engaging with the district on a solution, but noted the last temporary use permit renewal came as a surprise to the campground’s residents who had thought the legality of their homes was permanent.
“Remembering all the conversations and debate and what a difficult decision that was, how many people’s livelihoods are there and how important it is for the community and to give them the time to do it right, I do think it’s important and probably also redundant to make sure somehow the applicant is informing the residents of it being a TUP and that there is an end potential,” she said.