By Heather Ramsay–Residents of Hooterville and Frog Flats, both in the west end of Queen Charlotte, have been in limbo for a year after their landlord, the Province of BC, let their licences to occupy lapse in June 2006.
Now provincial officials are assessing the situation and may decide not to reissue any licences at all, says Ian Smythe, section head with the Integrated Land and Management Bureau based in Smithers.
He was on the islands June 5 to do an inventory of what he called “float homes at Bearskin Bay.”
He says that when the licences were first issued, the original intention was to phase them out over time.
Many of the float homes were moved from the Queen Charlotte dock area to the west end of the tidal flats about 20 years ago. Then in the early 1990s, these float home residents entered into licence to occupy arrangements with the province. Mr. Smythe said the idea was that people would remove their improvements when the meager accommodations were not needed anymore. Since then, the properties have changed hands and other improvements have been built.
The province also intended to offer the float home residents other lots when they became available. A number of years ago, a development started across the road, but shell middens were uncovered and the Haida Nation put a stop to construction. Later, other lots were offered farther back from the waterfront.
“No one took us up on them,” said Mr. Smythe.
Mr. Smythe says he intends to have a meeting with residents within the month to figure out where to go from here, but added that the long term plan hasn’t changed.
He added there are social issues ILMB must be sensitive to, such as residents’ potential inability to pay along with health issues.
From the Village of Queen Charlotte’s perspective, Mayor Carol Kulesha would like the landlord to take responsibility for taxes owing from licence holders.
She says people with licences on Crown land pay property tax like home owners, which includes a share to the school, regional district, and regional hospital taxes.
The village is given an amount to collect for these public bodies and they must do so in full, but has no recourse when people on Crown land don’t pay. When municipal property owners are in arrears, the village can recoup lost funds through tax sales.
“We can’t do this with crown lease property. The province owns it,” said Mayor Kulesha.
“When someone doesn’t pay, we all pay,” she said.
She said when the village was incorporated, a large debt for these unpaid taxes was passed on to the new municipality. Thankfully, the province forgave it, she says.
This issue prompted the village to submit a resolution to the North Central Municipal Association calling for the province to review its buildings within municipalities and discharge their responsibilities as a landlord including duly enforcing their lease agreements.
Mr. Smythe says he knows this is an issue. He can’t say where the province will go on this matter, but he wants to hear from residents first.
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