The B.C. Supreme Court says the District of West Kelowna was within its legal right to order the removal of moored houseboats from Gellatly Bay in July 2010.
The court ruled houseboat owners who refused to leave when ordered to do so breached the provisions of the district’s zoning regulations, as well as the district’s licence of occupation over Gellatly Bay.
The municipality received the decision of Justice Alison Beames from the Supreme Court in Kelowna on Wednesday, following a lengthy civil dispute with one houseboat owner regarding moorage of vessels in West Kelowna.
“This news is very, very welcome,” said Mayor Doug Findlater. “My fellow council members and I heard loud and clear from our residents that we needed to protect and preserve our precious Gellatly Bay and ensure appropriate use of its waters.”
He said West Kelowna residents wanted the informal floating “sub-division” that was there five years ago removed, and this decision has backed the district’s legal methods for doing that.
The district said Wednesday that while the court decided temporary moorage is permissible as long as it is tied to active recreational use of the waters fronting West Kelowna, that will not conflict with the municipality’s practical approach to enforcement of the bylaw and licence.
Shortly after incorporation in 2007, West Kelowna started receiving concerns from residents regarding 13 houseboats moored in Gellatly Bay. Between February 2009 and October 2009, the municipal council of the day worked to create and adopt its W1 zone – Water Use Recreational to define appropriate uses of the lake fronting district property.
In early 2010 it worked with the Westbank First Nation to develop a joint-management agreement for Gellatly Bay and received a licence of occupation from the province for Gellatly Bay. The licence entitles the district, as owner of the land abutting a portion of Gellatly Bay, to enforce the uses spelled out in the W1 zone.
In June 2010, the district began enforcement of the W1 zone and the licence of occupation, and provided notice to houseboat owners to move their boats and permanent mooring buoys from Gellatly Bay.
The validity of the licence of occupation and the W1 zone were challenged by one houseboat owner soon after the district began enforcement action on all houseboats moored in Gellatly Bay.
While most of the houseboats moved out after the initial notice, a few stayed and defied the order for a length of time prior to the one houseboat owner launching the legal action.
West Kelowna says it will now consider pursuing the recovery of its legal costs in the case from the defendant.