Owner has to prove ‘no profit’ being made on group moorage facility

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Wednesday, September 5 2018

Tim Melville, owner of a private dock in Degnen Bay, will need to show that he is not generating any profit above and beyond maintenance and administrative costs of operating a group moorage facility.

That according to Islands Trust staff, who clarified some of the questions Melville had regarding a bylaw enforcement action taken which states he is operating a commercial facility according to both the Islands Trust and the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD).

For Melville to comply with the requirements of his water lease with FLNRORD, he would need to demonstrate that there is no commercial use of floats, wharf or dock.

Trust staff said for the Water General (WG) zoning of the property, he would need to demonstrate to the Islands Trust that the use is for non-commercial purposes and is associated with upland residential uses on Gabriola Island only, which likely would include providing documentation to confirm this.

Melville said he still doesn’t understand where the Trust or FLNRORD is getting the idea that he is running a commercial operation.

Trust staff cited a FLNRORD Ministry report saying that the facility is providing Hydro power, and allowing the dock to be used by transient boaters.

The Ministry report states that “FLNRORD is concerned that the inclusion of 30-amp metered electrical service and use of this facility by transient boaters constitutes a commercial use and scale. The intent of the WG zone for non-commercial group moorage or dockage is that it only be for the use of upland property owners on Gabriola, not transient visitors that would frequent a marina.”

Melville said there are no transients mooring at the facility.

“That’s absolutely incorrect - there’s never been overnight moorage offered there.

“Everyone there is on a 12-month, prepaid contract. They’re all island residents, which happens anyways, I can’t see anyone living off island would moor in Degnen.”

Trust staff confirmed this past week that the information regarding transients came from the Ministry, not Trust staff.

A spokesperson with the Ministry said that the Ministry had recently informed the dock owner by email that he is operating his dock as a commercial activity, which is in contravention of local zoning.

Ministry staff said an online search confirms that the owner is advertising the dock for commercial use, which indicates it is not just for use by year-round members of the group moorage.

A listing for a 50-foot slip on the dock was found on Kijiji, dated August 24, 2018. Ministry did not state which part of the ad differentiates it between Group Moorage or Commercial.

Melville had said the 50-foot slip on the dock was vacant, but that he was seeking a year-long tenant on it, just as with all the other tenants.

Melville said the electrical connections were put in for the people paying for a full year’s use of the dock as moorage members.

“There was an assumption that electrical service is to service transients. The provision of electrical is for people who keep their boats there over the winter. 

“So people can plug boats in, have heat, battery charging, during the wet months. The meters hardly turn in the summer, more in the winter.”

Every berth on the dock is metered, according to Melville. He receives the bill from BC Hydro, pays the bill, and portions out to the boaters according to the meters.

“It’s pure cost recovery.”

Melville said he wants to maintain the status quo of the dock.

“I’m not a developer - there’s no plan to expand the facility, it’s not doable, the foreshore lease does not have the size. 

I have no plan to change anything other than maintain the status quo.”

He said if there are issues with a lack of parking or toilet facilities, that it should be addressed to the neighbouring federal dock as well.

“The government dock operates without parking or toilet.

“I’m certainly willing to work with the Trust and MOTI on vehicle parking as well as dinghy parking - there are always 12 to 20 dinghies there for boats that are anchored in the bay, not customers of mine.

Melville’s docks do not provide water or septic hookups.

He said he’s not sure what other options are available. 

“There doesn’t seem to be a Plan B. If it can’t be changed to Marina, and can’t be Group Moorage, what do I do with the 23 boats that are there?”

At present, the Gabriola Local Trust Committee has referred the application to the Gabriola Advisory Planning Commission (APC). 

A date for the APC meeting has not been set - Trust staff said it is unlikely that the APC will meet prior to the local government election (October 20).

Bylaw enforcement action is on hold, pending the outcome of the application.

Melville said there is no intention at this time to change anything at the dock, pending any decisions made by the Trust or Ministry.