CVRD to Regulate Float Homes

February 10th, 2013
Float Homes Under Threat

Float Homes Under Threat

Commentary: Originally published in February 2012

It was bound to happen, and now it finally has. At the CVRD’s February 21st Electoral Area Service Committee a motion was passed directing staff to initiate a process to amend the Area D Cowichan Bay Official Settlement Plan Bylaw No. 925 and Area D Zoning Bylaw No. 1015 to regulate float homes in Cowichan Bay Village.

Lori Iannidinardo must be beside herself with glee. She’s finally been given the green light to extend her influence over those who were previously beyond her reach.

The new measure, according to Ms Iannidinardo’s recent newsletter seeks to “initiate a conversation with the community about how to accommodate our float home residents in a way that respects their needs as well as the needs of the whole community and our wider environment.” She is further quoted as saying in a recent local news paper item; “Floathomes aren’t even supposed to be there under our (Area D) bylaws,”. So easy it is to dismiss over a hundred years of Coastal Culture and Tradition. So easy it is to assume governance and authority over the ocean, which according to Canadian law, is a still under Federal mandate.

We know exactly what this sort of attitude means.

False Creek 1934

False Creek 1934

It means that a group of people who live on land, have decided that they need to tell a group of people who live on the water what to do, how to do it and why we need once again to listen to them. It means that our lives are going to get a little more complicated. It means that our lives are going to get a little less free and a lot more expensive. It means that those who don’t like the fact that we live here the way we do and who have been complaining about us for years will finally have a by-law or two to throw at us when the time for us to jump through hoops draws near. It means that in the end, we won’t be here except at the whim and pleasure others. After all, according to Ms Iannidinardo, we “have an impact on everything from parking, access to fire and other emergency services, to the health of our waters.”

It means that Ms Iannidinardo has finally gotten her way and that the days when we were able to dismiss her as a vocal but harmless opponent have come to an end.

It’s unfortunate that we cannot have a better relationship with our area director. She’s in her second term in office, and was certainly the best politician in the last election. She won her position handily through hard work, through communicating effectively with the electorate and through personally running an ongoing PR campaign that sees her followed by over 100 twitter users, has her appearing regularly on the Tv News and in the local papers and all the while running a very professional website. She is if nothing else, a very effective communicator. Before she took on the position as Area Director, Ms Iannidinardo was an active member of the CVRD Area D Parks and Recreation Commission for thirteen years, eleven of those as Chair.

Coal Harbour 1904

Coal Harbor 1904

A formidable opponent indeed.

But we of the Tidal Zone are not without our own resources. Some of the folks who live here have been on the water one way or another for most of their adult lives. They have been through fights like this before, and have learned from them. More than a few have experience in the Labor Unions which along with Capital with helped build the Province, wrenching it from the wilderness in days now all but forgotten.

We are an independent lot, a group of artists, lawyers, businessmen, shipwrights, drapers, potters, bakers, painters, schoolteachers, marine mechanics, welders, carpenters, truck drivers, published authors, boat brokers and more than a few who work at a variety of occupations as ambition beckons and opportunity knocks.

We are a collection, not of ne’er-do-wells, but of individuals who have chosen this inter-tidal lifestyle because we appreciate and enjoy it. My home, is all of 200 square feet, but I would not give it up for the nicest condo on the bluff on the other side of Cowichan Bay Road. I doubt there are many here who could by that means be tempted away.

Meanwhile, we’re regularly vilified by some of those who live on land, as a group of people of whom “something must be done about.”

We are accused of dodging property taxes, a ridiculous assertion when one considers that we pay our Marina Owner Landlords moorage, live-aboard fees, and for electricity. We provide our own Internet connections, cellular telephones, fuel to heat our homes and for our box at the post office. We do the same as someone say, living in the trailer park just up the hill from the marinas we inhabit. We pay for water too, every drop of fresh drinking water that flows through this marina is metered and it’s all totaled up at the end of each month.

Morning Cowichan Bay Village

Morning Cowichan Bay Village

The monthly cost of moorage alone for my dwelling and the boat we choose to keep alongside, comes to just a bit over $500 a month. Hardly squatters rates when you consider that like the trailer park dweller, I own my own home. I even pay 35 dollars a month for a private parking space here at the Marina, something which I feel is worthwhile, for it keeps my van off the street. Parking in Cowichan Bay Village is at a premium after all.

We are accused of befouling the waters we claim to love so much. It’s true that those of us who are as yet not fortunate enough to be hooked to a waste water pumping system, flush out shower, sink and toilet water into the Bay, but it’s not as if this has much impact on the environment, in spite of what some of the shriller land dwellers might have you believe. The water here is salty seawater. It is very cold year-round. The tide flows through our marina hard enough to cause ripples in the water.

Salt is a very good bacteria killer. Our forefathers used it to preserve meat and other foods. Cold is also a very good bacteria killer. It’s the reason we freeze foods for later consumption, why we keep milk in the refrigerator. The marine toilets we use are designed to mix what we flush with large amounts of water, turning what everyone expects to see into a fine cloud of particles which disperse quickly on the tide. I have a thick growth of mussels on the underside of my float-home, they seem to be doing particularly well around the outflow pipe.

Tight Knit Community

Tight Knit Community

Finally, the only reason most of us haven’t taken advantage of alternate means of disposal, is because those means have never been made available to us. It’s as if septic tank owners should suddenly be vilified because they have never hooked their lines to the municipal sewage system. For us, that system has never been made available either.

We aren’t asking for special privileges out here on the water. We aren’t in fact asking for anything at all. We want to be left alone and we certainly don’t want to be “accommodated” as if we were some communal problem everyone had to get together to solve.

Leave us alone to pursue our lives as we see fit. To live in the traditional West Coast manner our forefathers would have been able to recognize. We don’t believe that’s too much to ask for. I for one am willing to fight very hard for all of that.

I think Bugs Bunny said it best, when in a 1943 cartoon he frowned at the camera in response to having his burrow cemented over and said; “Of course you realize, This Means War.”

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