Derelict vessels in the Gorge Waterway may soon become a thing of the past.
The BC Supreme Court ruled Monday that the City of Victoria has the authority to regulate the waterway. The decision follows a 2017 move by the City to seek an injunction requiring owners to remove their boats and docks that were illegally moored.
“Today’s judgment confirms that the City’s zoning regulations for the Gorge Waterway do not intrude on federal jurisdiction over navigation and shipping, and that they represent a reasonable balance between the municipality’s role in regulating land use and boaters’ rights to occasionally anchor,” City solicitor Tom Zworski said in a statement.
The judgment also recognizes that the right to anchor does not extend to the permanent or semi-permanent occupation of public space for private purposes. Vessel and dock owners must remove their property from the Gorge Waterway by May 7.
“It is the City’s expectation that owners will respect the court order and comply with the deadline to remove their vessels and property from the area,” said Zworski.
In May 2016, changes were made to the City’s Zoning Regulation Bylaw to improve the management of the Gorge Waterway by limiting long-term mooring to a maximum of 48 hours and not more than 72 hours in a 30-day period.
As the City prepared to head to court over the issue last year, Mayor Lisa Helps said the matter had “been a long time coming and it’s taken a lot to get prepared for the court case. We feel like there’s a good chance of success, but you never know and it will be before the courts very soon.”
The changes allow the City to regulate the use of the Gorge for recreation without restrictions to navigation. The rules also prohibit live-aboard use and the storage of vessels, and address those vessels’ impacts on the marine environment and other residents.
The City is offering outreach services to those living aboard vessels that cannot be safely moved to help find alternative housing.