Cranberry Volunteer Fire Department at the scene of a fire on a property on Nanaimo River Road on April 8. (News Bulletin file)

Cranberry Volunteer Fire Department at the scene of a fire on a property on Nanaimo River Road on April 8. (News Bulletin file)

Residents implore Regional District of Nanaimo to take action on rural problem property

Fire at Nanaimo River Road’s ‘Easter Island Head Place’ earlier this month destroyed dwelling

Residents are pleading with the Regional District of Nanaimo board to take immediate action on a problem property north of Ladysmith, known as “Easter Island Head Place.”

Nanaimo RCMP, firefighters from numerous departments and B.C. Ambulance Service responded to a fire at the property on the 700 block of Nanaimo River Road earlier this month when a bus, being used as a dwelling, was destroyed and two people were sent to hospital. According to Jani and Miles Drew and other residents, the property has seen numerous bylaw violations over 20 years and they are concerned about the potential for deaths, injury and danger to neighbouring properties.

They are asking the RDN to take legal action, via a court order, against the property owners and residents to comply with land use, unsightly premises, noise and burning bylaws. An end to unlawful camping, illegal burning of “noxious materials,” and “wrecking of vehicles” is sought as well as removal of illegal dwellings and “derelict vehicles, machinery, garbage and filth.”

Jani Drew previously told the News Bulletin that bylaw enforcement tends to “show up for a bit, the residents move a few things around, [officials] think everything is fine and the matter is closed,” but that is not the case. She is also concerned about liability issues. At the RDN’s board meeting April 27, both Jani and Miles told directors about problems arising from the site.

“All of those issues … all grow out of violations of the land-use bylaw,” Miles Drew told directors. “If the land-use bylaw were enforced to the full extent required, and that the property met the standard that the bylaw is supposed to hold us to, none of those other collateral issues would exist, or if they did, they’d exist in a far lesser extent and would result in a great reduction in nuisance and worry to the neighbourhood and also in the valuable time of first responders.”

In 20 years, Miles said he has never seen any of the complaints brought to “a final conclusion.”

Maureen Young, RDN director for the area the property is situated on, introduced a motion to have staff compile a report on bylaw violations, with recommendations.

“It’s been over 20 years that this property has been a disturbance to the community and it is a real disturbance,” said Young at the meeting. “I know for a fact that the fire department cannot enter the property without the RCMP in attendance and vice-versa.”

Sheryl Armstrong, City of Nanaimo director and a former RCMP officer, said there are certain steps that have to be taken before seeking a court injunction.

“I am very familiar with the property from years ago as well,” said Armstrong. “However, I think we need to hear from bylaws, exactly the steps, what was taken and what our next steps are … I think we have to be really careful on this because as I state, there is a process … that we have to follow before we’re ever going to get a court injunction.”

Paul Thompson, RDN acting general manager of strategic and community development, said he couldn’t speak about specifics, but did say the property has been subject to bylaw enforcement over the years. There are many steps before considering legal action, he said.

“You have to look at what other measures you could take in order to deal with the bylaw infraction itself … It all depends really on the property owners and whether they’re going to co-operate or not,” Thompson told the News Bulletin. “You try for voluntary compliance first before proceeding to the court injunction. That’s kind of the last thing that you would do.”

RELATED: Dwelling razed, two taken to hospital in rural Nanaimo blaze

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