Dan Cross has wanted to bring an RV park to Ladysmith for five or six years, but his latest attempt has hit a road block as the Town of Ladysmith embarks on a review of the waterfront.
Cross, a third-generation Ladysmith resident, had brought a proposal to the Town of Ladysmith to lease the Town-owned land near Transfer Beach for three years and operate a 54-site RV park with tent sites. This property was an RV park in the past.
His proposal was turned down by council at an executive (closed) session May 6.
In his letter to Cross explaining council’s decision, Mayor Rob Hutchins says council is unable to pursue his proposal at this time because the Town will begin a review of its Waterfront Area Plan this fall.
“The Town will be updating our Waterfront Area Plan in 2013, and council has determined that no decisions regarding permanent or temporary use of these Ladysmith waterfront lands will be made prior to adoption of the updated Waterfront Area Plan,” he wrote. “We want to make sure we have a comprehensive plan in place before we move forward to develop our waterfront.”
The property is not zoned for an RV park, and Hutchins says council has been consistent with all waterfront development interests that rezoning proposals will not proceed without a review of the Waterfront Area Plan taking place first.
Cross recalls he approached Hutchins about five or six years ago with a proposal to put an RV park on the property behind the yellow gates. Hutchins encouraged Cross to consider a few other locations, including north of the Expo Legacy building on Oyster Bay Drive, and Cross says the idea “sort of died.”
Fast forward to 2012, and Cross approached Hutchins again, and Hutchins suggested they look at two three-year temporary use permits because the property is not zoned for an RV park, and council could not legally consider a longer contract.
Based on the idea of two three-year permits, Cross had a business plan drawn up, had the land surveyed, had professional drawings drawn up and worked out construction estimates and logistics.
Cross says he approached most of the councillors and asked them for their suggestions and asked what their personal views on the proposal were.
“All the ones I did speak to were very open and thought it was a great idea,” he said.
Shortly before Christmas 2012, Cross says Hutchins informed him that the council wouldn’t be able to proceed with considering two three-year permits.
“It kind of came out of the blue a little bit, and his reasoning was they can’t fetter another council into a contract,” said Cross. “At that time, things kind of went off the rail a little bit; I was obviously a little upset because from the start, the discussion was always for six years. Obviously, financially, you can’t do that kind of infrastructure over three years.”
Cross revised his business plan and came up with a proposal for operating on a three-year lease.This is the proposal council considered May 6.
Cross was disappointed that council turned down his proposal in an in-camera meeting after he was told by councillors they thought it was a good idea and after all the time and money he’s already invested in the proposal, but he says he still wants to pursue something with the Town.
“Unless the Town miraculously has a change of heart, I’m going to have to wait until their Area Plan study is done, hopefully next spring, and then move forward from there,” he said. “I can’t see anything happening this year now or next year, so that’s two more years the town’s going to be out.
“What kind of really surprises me is there was so much support from council to begin with when I first started.”
Council is generally supportive of “doing what we can to help facilitate the establishment of an RV park in the community,” emphasized Hutchins.
“The single biggest driver for us in the decision making here is because we are four months away from starting a new Waterfront Area Plan process, and council said we need to wait for that public process,” he said. “The concern is that to begin a public process and then actually determine the use before we have that public dialogue, that was a challenge for council.”
There were two reasons council considered Cross’s proposed in a closed meeting — to respect Cross’s proprietary business information and to protect the Town’s interests with respect to its property, explained Hutchins.