The draft bylaw to ban riverbank camping had its first reading in District of Kitimat council chambers on Monday night.
In addition, Monday, April 16, has been set as the date for a public hearing to receive comment on the bylaw, titled Riverbank Camping Bylaw No. 1917 of 2018.
Following the public hearing and revisions to the bylaw, it will receive a second and third reading in council, whereupon it could be adopted and implemented by the district.
The first reading of the bylaw follows a February 26 council meeting in which council gave DoK staff the go-ahead to draft the bylaw.
“The Province of British Columbia allows municipalities to regulate camping on Crown Land within municipal boundaries; and it is possible to restrict access to Crown Land by measures placed on municipal land (e.g. a gate),” reads the proposed bylaw.
“Free camping outside the municipality will continue to be available.
“Camping has been defined as a land use, and an area where this use is prohibited on both public and private land has been defined. This is presented as a zoning amendment bylaw; a public hearing will be required.”
The bylaw will make it illegal to camp within the district’s boundaries outside of the four designated camping areas, two run by the DoK and two that are licensed as camp grounds. Camping will still be allowed on un-alienated provincial crown land in the forestry zone, 500 metres or more east of Highway 37, west of the CN rail track and north of the district lot 6071.
The proposed ban on the riverbank was one of the recommendations made by the DoK’s Riverbank Camping Committee, which unanimously agreed that one of the recommendations to council be that council “approve no camping on the riverbank within municipal boundaries”.
The committee was established to look into riverbank camping following the flooding of the riverbank which necessitated the rescue of a number of campers along the river.
DoK Community Planning and Development director Gwendolyn Sewell and Leisure Services director Martin Gould fielded questions from the councillors relating to the draft bylaw in the council meeting.
Sewell, answering a question from councillor Mario Feldhoff, said while the general policy was for B.C. citizens to be able to camp on crown land for up to two weeks, there is a restriction on that which allows the municipality to step in and regulate use of crown land located within municipal boundaries.
“We have chosen to do that but only with respect to the river corridor and around the town site,” said Sewell.
She stressed that it was important to note that this Bylaw No. 1917 is a zoning bylaw, which only allows for camping in areas that are designated for camping.
“That means that camping will not be a permitted use in industrial land or any other zone where that land use is not specifically permitted,” said Sewell. “It’s quite more restrictive than it was previously because we have taken a zoning approach.”
She added that the bylaw would not apply to land within First Nations reserves.
Gould added that the Rio Tinto representative on the Riverbank Camping Committee had indicated that Rio Tinto would support whatever the DoK chose to do with regards to access to the river bank via Rio Tinto property.
Councillor Larry Walker expressed concern that the bylaw wouldn’t be passed in time for the 2018 camping season, another of the Camping Committee’s recommendations.
DoK chief administrative office Warren Waycheshen while it was possible for the bylaw to move through the public hearing and the second and third reading before the camping season, it might encounter obstacles that would see it delayed.
“It is theoretically possible to move through these steps before summer 2018. However, the bylaw may not be adopted if strong and reasonable objections are expressed at the public hearing,” said Waycheshen.
He said, however, that the bylaw could theoretically receive a second and third reading on April 16 at the regular 7.30 p.m.council meeting following the public hearing, which is scheduled in council chambers for 6.30 p.m.
“Potentially this bylaw could be adopted on April 16,” said Waycheshen. “Although Kitimat Council has initiated this bylaw change, each councillor must maintain an open mind until the public hearing is closed.”