The owner of two boats moored off shore of a North Saanich park fears losing his place of residence as the municipality ponders tougher moorage policies. “They are putting their nose in where they shouldn’t,” said Stewart Jackson. “If I get kicked off my boat, I will be out on the street.”
Jackson owns two of the three boats that currently moor off Lillan Hoffar Park, with the third belonging his son. Jackson, who is currently staying on land with a friend after recovering from a leg amputation, cannot wait to resume living on the water. “I really can’t say,” he said, when asked when he might return. “I’m hoping really soon. I really don’t like being on land.”
Jackson, his wife and cat have been living on board for about four years after moving to the Saanich Peninsula from Esquimalt. “I was in a stinky little apartment then, and we just decided that we have had enough,” he said. “So we moved out to the boats, and we have been there ever since.”
Jackson said he could afford to live on land, if necessary, but does not really want to do so and feels he is breaking no laws.
“It’s totally legal,” he said. “I’m far enough away at a high tide to be under federal jurisdiction.”
While Jackson’s wife has lived on and off the boat as Jackson recovers from his surgery in November, Jackson has been living on land. Otherwise, the hospital would have not discharged him following his surgery, he said. This said, he has been back on the water on at least one occasion, “slipping and sliding” on his crutches, while inspecting his boats, which currently receive care from a local.
Due to be fitted with a prosthetic soon, Jackson looks forward to resuming his life on the water.
“It’s great,” he said. “Some nights, it kind of rocks you to sleep. I am always out in the fresh air. I’m always working on the boats.”
The presence of the three boats — Jackson’s son uses his strictly for recreational purposes, according to Jackson — has drawn complaints from nearby residents concerned about the loss of views and access to local beaches.
Jackson is surprised that area residents are concerned about his boats, saying he has not received any complaints. He has also challenged the impression that the boats are abandoned and that he is squatting. “It a 41-foot-long boat I live on,” he said. “It’s bigger than some apartments in town.”
North Saanich officials have grown more concerned about the state of nearby Tsehum Harbour in the face of more than 30 sunken boats, according to one estimate, and other moorage issues. A recent staff report notes that around 100 mooring buoys currently float within Tsehum Harbour, with the majority of buoys satisfying North Saanich’s existing zoning bylaw.
While the regulation of navigation and shipping falls exclusively within federal jurisdiction, court cases have confirmed that municipalities may regulate through zoning land use covered by navigable water.
Specifically, the Community Charter gives municipalities the authority to regulate land covered by water up to 300 metres from the high water mark of municipal boundaries. The incorporation patent of North Saanich confirms that it includes the land covered by water to 300 metres from the high water mark.
North Saanich, for its part, appears eager to regulate the area and council earlier this month passed a number of motions designed to improve governance.
Jackson said he did not check with North Saanich officials when deciding to live on the water. “They usually come around once a year and check on me, see what’s going on, and walk away,” he said.
Jackson said he last spoke to North Saanich officials around Halloween after he had attached a floating camper to three boats off Lillian Hoffar Park.
According to Jackson, a man had been living on the camper for about a decade before moving to Alberta to live with his parents for the winter. Jackson said he agreed to pick it up on behalf of the Capital Regional District (CRD).
“I’m just waiting for them to come and pick it up,” he said.
Rebecca Penz, communications manager for the District of North Saanich, said the fate of the three boats “is not just a matter of dealing with abandoned vessels” because of the people who are living aboard. “Housing issues need to be addressed for these individuals,” she said.
“We have been working with the RCMP on enforcement and engaging with various social support services including the Homeless Action Response and CRD Housing to connect those living aboard with services to assist them with finding alternate housing.”
North Saanich hasn’t heard any concerns of potential environmental issues. “We are still assessing the situation and considering our options for next steps,” she said.
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