People who live in RVs in RDN fear new bylaw could force major changes

People who live in RVs in RDN fear new bylaw could force major changes

Hundreds of people who live full-time in recreational vehicles (RVs) in RV parks in the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) say a draft bylaw affecting land use could limit their stays to six months.

Donna Scotten and her husband have lived in Riverbend Resort south of Parksville for seven years, partly because of the lifestyle but also because it’s more affordable than many other options.

“A lot of people here have chosen to live this way because they want to,” Scotten told CHEK News. “Some have chosen it because of financial difficulties. There’s no better way of living as far as we’re concerned.”

Of the 138 RV lots in Riverbend, more than 100 are full-time homes for people. Hundreds of people live in their RVs year-round in other resorts across the district as well.

“This is where I live and the reason I live here is because my wife developed cancer, we couldn’t keep up a property, couldn’t keep up the cost so we had to look at some way to be able to survive,” said Riverbend Resort resident Donald Varnadore.

The winding roads of Riverbend are filled with expensive fifth-wheel trailers and other RVs, surrounded by gardens and fences.

But this way of life, be it by choice or necessity, could now be in jeopardy, they say, as the RDN proposes wide-ranging changes to its land use bylaw, which could include limiting long-term stays in RV parks to six months.

“And that’s a concern to me. I live in an RV, it’s my home. Financially I can’t afford to live anywhere else. I don’t know where I’d go and if they want me to move every six months,” said Jeanette Nadeau who lives in her RV at a resort in Qualicum Beach.

“Who’s going to pay for that because I can’t afford to pay for it.”

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Heather MacDonald has owned Riverbend Resort since 2005 and says this is the second time the regional district has tried to limit long-term stays.

“It’s a little bit underhanded, and I’ve asked time and time again for justification of why the 180 days and to date I haven’t received a justification for it,” she said.

It’s all become an issue because RDN staff want to update the current wide-ranging land use bylaw 500, which, in part, does not permit stays over 6 months in a recreational vehicle, even in an RV park.

While it hasn’t been enforced over the years, the proposed new bylaw appears to double down on the prohibition, with language that says: “A recreational vehicle in a campground, resort vehicle park, or recreational vehicle park can only be used as temporary living quarters by travellers.”

However, the chair of the Regional District says enforcement hasn’t happened before and won’t now.

When asked what she could say to put them at ease, Vanessa Craig said: “Well I’d say that certainly the board and staff are very aware of the issues facing residents at this time and that none of us want to make a person homeless if they’re otherwise living in a safe circumstance.”

Craig told CHEK News that the current phase 1 of updating bylaw 500 to bylaw 2500 is more housekeeping than anything else and that stronger language protecting long-term stays for people who live in their RVs would come in phases 2 and 3.

The residents, however, say the fact the new bylaw 2500 will contain the same language limiting stays to six months “in black and white” gives them reason to be concerned.

Board chair Vanessa Craig says the board is hearing the concerns loud and clear.

“We’re getting a lot of feedback from the community, we’re hearing a lot of concerns from residents,” she said. “You know we are in a housing crisis just in terms of affordability and availability so we are hearing a lot of concerns which have been raised through this process.”

In the meantime, she said a staff report expected in June will address ways around enforcement of the current language.

READ ALSO: Nanaimo mobile home park tenants want others to know about illegal rules

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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