Ucluelet’s municipal council has denied a mobile vending license to Beachcomber Ocean Tours.
Beachcomber owner Cam MacPherson had hoped to set up shop in a small structure sitting atop a trailer next to Howler’s Family Restaurant at 1992 Peninsula Road. MacPherson reached an agreement with the restaurant’s owners, who own the land, to park his unique tiny building on a dirt road beside the restaurant that leads to a parking lot.
District staff noticed the structure in May and advised MacPherson he would need to apply for a permit to conduct business out of it.
MacPherson did so and Ucluelet’s lead planner John Towgood submitted a report to council on May 24 outlining MacPherson’s plans but council tabled the application until they could collect more information.
On June 28, they voted unanimously to deny the permit.
The motion to deny came from Coun. Mayco Noel who said the activity around the restaurant is already high and there was no room for an additional feature.
Coun. Randy Oliwa agreed and added MacPherson’s mobile office might not mesh well with the district’s plans to convert the parking in front of Howler’s to parallel.
He suggested MacPherson or the property owners should have come to the district office before putting the structure in place.
MacPherson said the office is set up roughly 20 metres from Peninsula Road.
“What councillor Noel has just said is really a non issue. There are no safety problems,” he said.
“We are not in the way of traffic or the sidewalk. We have $2 million liability on the trailer with an electrical inspection; everything has been done properly.”
He added he had not opened the office as he waited for council’s approval.
“I’ve waited very patiently with my doors closed for no reason for six weeks,” he said.
Oliwa repeated that there was no room for more activity in the area and the project could hinder the district’s parallel parking plans.
“I’m not really comfortable at this time approving an added use to that property with the parking the way it is,” he said. “I do see a safety issue there.”
Mole said she liked the concept of the tiny office but worried about setting a precedent for future mobile vendors.
During the meeting’s open question period, MacPherson said he regretted not speaking to the district office before pursuing the project but didn’t think he needed to because he had a business license and an agreement with the property owner.
He explained he has lived in Ucluelet for 12 years and had hoped to increase his water taxi and wildlife viewing business by showcasing his offerings “on a more professional level than meeting at the boat or on the street.”
“The beginning of the 2016 season found many of us surprised to hear of the closure of the Canadian [Princess] Resort creating a void for marine activities on our main street,” he said.
“I feel that providing a water taxi service for kayakers and hikers to the West Coast Trail and wildlife viewers to Barkley Sound will serve the tourism industry better.”
He questioned how council thought there would be a safety issue.
“Parking and safety are not an issue where I am. Cars are driving slowly to the back parking lot…No one is speeding by. It’s not a 50 km/h zone. It’s a little dirt road,” he said.
Noel clarified his concern was not about the dirt road the structure was on, but the sidewalk along Peninsula.
“There’s a lot of activity going on along that sidewalk,” he said. “You’re adding more activities”
MacPherson repeated the office was roughly 20 metres away from the Peninsula sidewalk.
Mole, acting as mayor in Dianne St. Jacques’ absence, brought the discussion to a halt and explained council’s decision had been made.
“Thank you very much for taking six weeks to get here...And, to turn me down for what I’m trying to do for this town [and] for my family; thank you very much,” MacPherson said.
After the meeting, MacPherson told the Westerly council’s decision was frustrating.
“It was very unfair,” he said.
“I have to promote my business so I can support my family and put my children through school. Like everybody else, we have to make a living and we have to improve our scenario. I feel that the council did not help me, they hindered and worked against me.”
Oliwa told the Westerly his key concern was adding another use to the area.
“It’s a really attractive building, don’t get me wrong, I think it’s absolutely gorgeous. I like the idea of them I like the concept of it. How it fits into fees and licensing I’m still not exactly sure, but it’s just getting to critical mass up there for me,” he said.
“This new building, that’s basically an attractant, put me over the edge on the safety factor. I think it’s going to attract too much more to that area for what it can handle.”