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REPORTING · 13th July 2015
Walter McFarlane
It’s not unusual for the same topic to come up at several consecutive Council Meetings. Trailer Court issues in Kitimat came before Council at Committee of the Whole Meetings on the 22nd and 29th of June, and at a Committee of the Whole Meeting on July 6th. The issue of taxes for an ‘abandoned’ trailer in Vista Village have been appearing at meetings throughout 2015.

What is unusual is for Kitimat Council to go into an open Committee of the Whole meeting following a Regular Meeting of Council. This was the case on July 6th.

The topic for the evening was the redevelopment of the manufactured homes park policy. Daniel Martins, of the Planning Department, briefed Council on this change. This policy is one which was recommended by the Housing Action Plan, and might have come before Council sooner, as most of the research was completed in February.

“In the Housing Action Plan, which was presented to Council last fall, it was one of the items that were recommended is, that Council develop a policy of what to do with the redevelopment of manufactured home parks. If someone applies to redevelop a manufactured home park, what is the process and what is the policy that Council would have in place to address that,” said Martins.

He explained there were two such parks in Kitimat, both are land which is owned and pads are rented out. The Provincial Government has different legislature for a person wanting to redevelop a manufactured home park then for a person wanting to redevelop a complex. It recognises that the people are renting the land, but placing their own homes upon it.

Martins also told Council these parks are affordable for the people who live there and good for people who want to live in their own building. However, these homes are aging and sometimes, the infrastructure needs to be brought up to date.

“What we’ve seen in Kitimat is that residents of manufactured home parks are nervous about redevelopment pressure, and it’s challenging for staff and for Council in that one of the things we can’t say is: ‘it will never be redeveloped,’” said Martins. “What we’re trying to do is have a process in place. This is the process, this is the expectations put on tenants and put on owners and on Council and on staff on how this would be addressed.”

To create this new policy, they looked at communities around BC to see what are included in the policies. These policies include assistances and communications to the tenants. The policy is still in draft form and will be gone over by various organizations and the community before it is adopted.

Martins explained how staff deals with applications. He stated one of the things they want to do in this new policy is have the applicant contact the tenants and let them know what is going on ten days before it comes to Council.

The second thing they want to have is a relocation plan. While the relocation plan will require items which are already covered by the Provincial Government, they also want to ensure the tenants accept the proposal which is put forward by the applicant. Council will be able to determine whether or not the applicant has put together an acceptable relocation plan.

Currently, tenants receive 12 month eviction notice once all permits are in place. With the new policy, the District will increase the notice to 24 months. This is to help the relocation plan. In the case of a new housing development, Tenants will be able to purchase a new house at a fair market rate. Finally, the proposed policy would gather the information required for Council to make their decision.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff thanked administration for the report and all the work which went into it and stated this was the beginning of the process and Council will find out how the wider community and the two mobile home parks feel about these changes.

Gwen Sewell, community planner agreed, because the District of Kitimat was trying to be pro-active, rather than reactive. She suggested Council put forward their own ideas.

Councillor Larry Walker expressed he had looked at the Tenancy Act. He asked if the proposed policy would supersede the act in the case of 12 months’ notice vs. 24 months’ notice. He was told the Tenancy Act requires a 12 month minimum and they could impose conditions on top of the provincial requirements.

Feldhoff wanted to know what would happen if a manufactured home park was redeveloped into a manufactured home park. The response was it would still be a redevelopment option and there were still tenants who could be replaced in this process.

Councillor Rob Goffinet wanted to know if the data collected was shareable. The reply was, for every application they receive, a handbook is put together, which is available at the reception desk at the District of Kitimat. Anyone can come in and read the handbook and take copies of the pages they feel are pertinent. There is similarly a full copy on the District of Kitimat website. The information will not be personal information about individuals, to protect privacy.

Goffinet also asked, if an unreasonable proposal was put forward, if the Council would be informed. The reply from Sewell was yes. However, Martins added: “I think the ultimate decider on that would be Council.”

A motion was made to Council refer the draft to the Advisory Planning Commission and the Housing Committee. The motion was called and carried.

Ray Hepting, representing the Jed Stumps Estates Association thanked the Council because everyone in their court is sitting on pins and needles and they need some stability in their lives. Angela Brown from Vista Village thanked them for taking this into consideration.

Another recommendation from the Housing Action Plan will be coming before Council tonight at a Committee of the Whole Meeting. This one will deal with the standards of maintenance for rental accommodation.