The District of Kitimat is treating the presentation at a recent council meeting regarding the condition of the property at Vista Village Trailer Park as an official complaint and will move forward on standard complaint investigation policies.
Although the concerns were brought up in a public council meeting by a trailer park resident and a member of the Kitimat Housing Resource Project, Chief Administrative Officer Warren Waycheshen took an opportunity to tell councillors that in usual cases the town will not voluntarily disclose who made complaints against persons or homeowners as a matter of policy.
As of the September 14 Committee of the Whole meeting staff had not yet conducted any investigation, as they were awaiting council’s review of the plan before moving ahead. That delay as well was due to the public nature of the complaint and otherwise complaints would not usually be shared at a public meeting for council’s review.
The options of the District to investigate complaints can be to either refer to another agency (as an example the Ministry of Environment could be one), to issue a ticket under the Municipal Tickets program, court-ordered enforcement, or remedial action as outlined under the Community Charter.
A report to council emphasizes that the fact that the town will investigate a complaint at Vista Village does not suggest that any violations have actually occurred, just that they will look in to it.
The outline of the complaint is that the owner of Vista Village has been storing old oil tanks on Vista Village property which may be degrading the ground and could potentially impact drinking water.
Such assessment was made following a letter sent to residents from an environmental firm hired by the park, warning against oil leaking from vehicles.
The representative for Vista Village Michael Gemmiti responded to the concerns put forward at the council meeting, saying the letters from the firm on oil leakages “were given to protect the park’s infrastructure, not as a precursor to evictions,” as was suggested by Paul Lagace at the September 8 meeting.
“The assertion that the letters indicate an avenue for future eviction notices is actually just an avenue for Lagace to put himself in front of council, yet again,” said Gemmiti. “Could the letter result in eviction notices? Only in an extremely lengthy and unlikely process.”
That process, he says, would be for a tenant hving to ignore the warning letter, forcing Vista Village to apply to the Residential Tenancy Board for an order to force the tenant to fix the issue, then the tenant would have to ignore that order to fix the problem. At that point the park could issue a one-month eviction notice, he said.
As for the oil tanks in question on the property owned by the park owner, he said “Vista Village informs me that there are old tanks but they have been empty for years with no oil. Vista Village has been trying to get the salvage people from Terrace to remove them but they have been too busy and that Vista Village’s tanks were too small of a load for them to take. It will continue to look into properly disposing the empty tanks.”
As for if the park would welcome any review by the Ministry of Environment, which was an avenue suggested by Lagace at the council meeting, Gemmiti said they wouldn’t.
“It is odd that Kitimat Council is taking steps to investigate this issue on the basis of some pictures and pure speculation without first contacting Vista Village,” he said.
Finally, as to the suggestion that Vista Village may be intending to shut down, that is also not the case.
“Vista Village has no intention of closing the park and has never made a single comment to the contrary. It appears to Vista Village that the only person making this assertion is Paul Lagace and his intentions for doing so are unknown,” he said. “It is distressing to many long term residents of Vista Village that this false accusation and many others are being told to Kitimat Council and to the press.”
He said that starting last year “a so-called homeowners’ association made up of a few tenants” has taken aggressive stances “to the detriment of other tenants.”
“Some long term tenants now fear walking in what they thought was a safe park all these years because of a couple of tenants that do not want to follow the park rules or their tenancy agreements.
“The long term tenants complain to management that they have been living happily in the park for many years and never had a problem until the association started attacking the management of the park over the past year.”