Crab Apple campground owner Mathieu Amin says he watched Tofino’s April 13 council meeting in “shock and bewilderment” as an application he didn’t recognize was rejected.
Council voted 4-2 to deny the application, which would have allowed the campground to operate as a commercial tourist accommodation that Amin says he never intended to apply for.
“I thought I was applying for a comprehensive development zoning for a long-term, staff accom campground but it came out as a commercial campground,” Amin told the Westerly News via email. “It seems that something got lost in translation, as I never planned on offering sites to tourists.”
The campground has received two temporary use permits (TUP) to operate as a residential campsite and Amin said he had intended to apply for that use to continue.
His current TUP expires in October, leaving the campground’s roughly 50 residents in fear of losing their homes.
“My intention has been to keep things going as they have been since day one,” Amin said.
Council had cited the tourism aspect of the application as the primary reason for their refusal, with several suggesting they’d be interested in seeing the campground’s residential use continue.
Amin said he is open to keeping the current restrictions outlined in his current TUP, including sites being available to residents only and stays being a minimum of 30 days.
“I have spent the time since then reaching out to the Mayor, Councillors, businesses, consultants, individuals in the community and of course the people currently living at the campground to try and figure out where everyone stands,” he said. “I am hoping for, at the very least, a temporary solution to keep people in their homes till they have other viable options to live in.”
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Tofino’s manager of community sustainability Aaron Rodgers told the Westerly that the Local Government Act prohibits council from renewing the campground’s current TUP for a second time and that Amin must submit an application that cannot be identical to his current TUP.
He said that while April 13’s tourism-focused application is now dead and finished, there is room for Amin to apply for a different TUP that could “definitely” still have a residential focus.
“It’s recognized by most people in the community that we have a shortage of housing year-round, but especially in the summertime and a lot of the people who work in Tofino have very limited options for places to live,” he said.
He estimated that if Amin applies for a new TUP, it would take at least eight weeks to process. Residential campsites do not exist within Tofino’s zoning though, in addition to Crab Apple, there is one other one currently operating with a temporary use permit at Mackenzie Beach.
Rodgers said that for Tofino to create a zone that allows residential campgrounds, council would need to direct staff to investigate the possibility, likely in conjunction with the town’s official community plan, or an applicant would need to apply for a permanent rezoning.
Rodgers said council has considered a municipal campground for longterm residential use in the past, but nothing came to fruition and added that the Tofino Housing Corporation operates a housing strategy on behalf of the district and is currently working on two apartment-style affordable housing developments.