A Ness Lake resident will have to demolish or move a shop building encroaching on a park after the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George board refused to sell the owner the parkland the building is on.
The property owner, Ryley Ballard, built the building without the proper permits. When regional district staff were informed about the building, an inspection showed the building was not within compliance of the five-metre setback requirements and possibly encroaching on the park. A survey later discovered the building encroaches about 7.5 m into the park.
Area A Director Warren Wilson said the issue of landowners encroaching on public lands has become a frequent problem.
"We saw another application on the same lake where the landowner had encroached on public lands," Wilson said. "This is parkland and it should be preserved. I think precedent is important here."
Wilson said property owners appear to believe it's better to ask forgiveness than permission when it comes to building on public land.
According to a district report, the only way the district board can sell or dispose of parkland is to adopt a parkland disposition bylaw, which would require the assent of the voters through a referendum or alternative approval process.
"If the board goes that way, eating away at the parkland, I don't think we should be the ones to pay for it," Wilson said. "If we were to pass on the all the costs, it would be more expensive than just moving the building."
In a letter to the district board, Ballard said he believed he was inside his property lines when he built.
"There was not a real property survey done but with the neighbour... we measured off from the pegs that were present on my property and his. When I went to erect the building we used those pegs because when I had talked to the regional district they said we didn't need a permit because we were erecting a temporary building and so we proceeded," Ballard wrote in a letter to the district board. "We did not realize there was anything amiss until the regional (district) received a complaint and I paid to have a survey done."
The building is insulated with spray foam, and would be difficult or impossible to move intact, he added.
"The amount of land we are talking about would be a small/minimal amount of the total acreage of the park," Ballard wrote. "The portion of the park land on my side of the property is more of an easement and has a gully, etc. which would render it unusable for an expansion of the parking lot, etc."
The park is a subdivision park across Lakeside Drive from the parking lot for Ness Lake Regional Park.
"He didn't locate his building properly," Area G Director Terry Burgess said. "He's just lucky it was public land, not private land."
Area H Director Dannielle Alan said it's a matter of principle.
"If we just allow somebody to encroach on the park, and then say 'Hey can you make it part of my property?' I think it sets a dangerous precedent."