The City of Victoria is one step closer towards enforcing a bylaw that prohibits overnight anchoring in the Gorge waterway.
A number of derelict boats and floating vessels have been permanently anchored off the Selkirk Trestle near Banfield Park for a number of years, sparking complaints about leaking sewage, oil, fuel, noise, and garbage from area residents.
In an effort to address the issue, council passed a bylaw in October 2014 that prohibits overnight anchoring, but the portion of water that was experiencing all the problems is owned by the province.
In order to implement the bylaw, the city applied for a license of occupation from the province so it could occupy the land. Officials have been waiting patiently to hear back from the province about the licence, but now staff now have a copy in hand that’s currently under review.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps hopethe document will be signed within the next week, then expects it’ll take another month for the province to complete the next step. It’s anticipated the city should have the licence finalized by October, then proceed with a staged enforcement on the boats.
“What we’re not going to do is go in and rip everybody out of there. What we’re going to do first is ask for the people to comply with the bylaw, have some conversations initially. We hope for compliance from all of the boats that are there,” said Helps, adding those living on boats that are economically vulnerable will be helped with either moving their boat somewhere they can continue to live on it or be matched with a housing provider.
“We don’t actually know all of the circumstances of all the people, but we want to do this in a way that’s going to be respectful. The community has been very patient for a long time. Also there’s the ecology of the area to consider.”
Helps isn’t sure exactly how many problem boats are still parked in the gorge, but at one point the numbers reached two dozen. Not all of them, however, have people living on them, she noted, and some property owners moor their boats there because it’s cheaper than a marina.
Bernie Goudet, president of the Victoria West Community Association, said the anchoring problems began about seven or eight years ago. Some residents view it as a fair way of providing affordable housing, but the bulk are concerned about boaters not being held accountable for sewage and other risks to the environment.
“There is some variation in how the community would like to see the area governed, but overall the community is in favour of there being some kind of regulatory approach where people are allowed to be there for a restricted period of time and they have to follow some very clear rules around health and safety related to the boat, themselves and the environment,” said Goudet.
“The few who have expressed an interest in accounting for the folks out there have actually gone out and met them and know them to be good people.”
The city has several places for people to tie up their boats, such as the Victoria Marina, Canoe Pub Marina, Reason Landing, and Fisherman’s Wharf.
— Pamela Roth