Vic Tyler says he’s digging in with his fight with the Cowichan Valley Regional District over his tiny house and won’t move it.
Tyler, who bought a half-acre of Cowichan Riverfront property near the fish ladder at Skutz Falls to live on in his retirement, has been informed by CVRD bylaw officers that he must have his tiny house, that he built, and two sheds, removed from the property by March 15 or possibly face fines of up to $1,000 a day, as well as legal action.
One of the reasons given was that the house and sheds were within the riparian zone of a fish-bearing stream, and no structures are permitted within 30 metres of the stream.
The other reason is that, according to the district’s bylaws, tiny houses are not permitted as residences in the CVRD.
Since he received the notice, dated Feb. 5, from the CVRD, Tyler has moved his tiny house to another part of his property that is further than 30 metres from the stream, and has temporarily moved into an apartment in Lake Cowichan until the matter is sorted out.
But he said the fact that the CVRD doesn’t consider his 34-foot-long, eight-foot-wide home, which has a compost system for sewage and solar panels for power, a residence is an even deeper concern.
“The district considers tiny houses a form of camping, and the zoning doesn’t allow camping here,” Tyler said.
“They even compare me to squatters in parks. There are already hundreds of tiny houses like this in other jurisdictions on the Island as part of efforts to deal with the affordable housing crisis, and I don’t understand why they are unacceptable in this district.”
CVRD bylaw officer Nino Morano explained to Tyler in a letter that zoning for the area prohibits use of tents, trailers, RVs, buses or other motor vehicles as a residence.
“Section 2.3 [of the bylaw] prohibits any use that is not expressly permitted,” Morano said in the letter.
“There is no mention of ‘tiny home’ in this bylaw, therefore this use is prohibited.”
Ian Morrison, the CVRD’s director for Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls, said the district is considering adding tiny homes to the list of acceptable residences in the district.
He said the district is currently in the process of modernizing its official community plan, and new concepts like Airbnb’s and tiny homes that have developed in the past few years could be included in the updated version of the OCP.
“But what we’re looking at is the possibility of setting up mini villages of tiny houses in an urban setting that would have easy access to sewer, water and related services,” Morrison said.
“Having one alone on a half-acre lot at the end of a dead-end road in the middle of a forest is another matter. There are provincial building codes that must be considered, and Island Health has rules around drinking water, and neither of these are the jurisdiction of the CVRD.”
Morrison said that while the citizens of the Cowichan Valley region recognize affordable housing as a top priority, so much so that they voted in a referendum to set up an affordable housing function which will see regional programs and services provided to help deal with it, Tyler’s case is not in context with the initiative.
“Most people who require assistance with affordable housing can’t afford to buy riverfront property,” he said.
“The folks the new function has been established to help have economic and other challenges. This case doesn’t quite fit the model. Mr. Tyler is looking at making a lifestyle choice and is attempting to fit something in that has not been considered across the region yet.”
As for the riparian issues, Morrison said the district has to periodically deal with land owners who act to build in riparian areas, and then find out after the fact that they had no authorization to build anything there.
“Mr. Tyler could have had his riparian issues addressed if he had gone to talk to our staff members who know the rules and regulations beforehand, and many of his other issues could have been addressed at that time as well,” he said.