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Fire regulations put hold on Port Edward Kinnikinnick Campground expansion

Debbie and Clint Thompson expressed their frustrations at the slow building process at city council.
Debbie and Clint Thompson are attempting to build small cabins on their property, but say they have faced pushback from the city’s building inspector.

A Port Edward business has asked the municipality to consider a compromise for their local campground expansion, which has been stalled due to building code semantics.

Debbie and Clint Thompson have operated Kinnikinnick Campground for around three years and had planned on expanding the property with seven new cabins since they made their purchase.

However, the city’s building inspector Bernie Zimmer’s interpretation of B.C. Building Code regulations have meant the Thompsons have not put any shovels in the ground to build the new structures for potential customers.

Port Edward’s small, volunteer fire department means that response times can be longer than those in more densely populated regions, meaning fire codes are stricter. For buildings without sprinklers in communities like Port Edward, the B.C. Building Code requires the distance between the buildings to be doubled.

The Thompsons argued fitting the buildings with sprinklers would be too costly, while the large distances between buildings would limit the amount of cabins they could build, making their investment less profitable.

The business owners brought a sophisticated and detailed presentation of their challenges to Sept. 12’s Port Edward Council meeting, comparing their campground to other rural cabin retreats in B.C.

A seperate 2016 ruling in the B.C. Building Code Appeal Board outlined a similar dispute to the Thompsons’ and was included in their presentation to council. The ruling went in favour of the appellant, and Debbie said they brought the ruling up with city staff, but it had been deemed irrelevant to their situation.

Debbie said the council is on the same page as the business owners, though they would like to see some progress on their “enormous investment.”

“The cabins would bring people into the community… they could not wait to get this started,” she said.

Having this extension completed would help tourism thrive in the small community, according to the couple. The council seemed to agree, with Councillor Dan Franzen offering his support, though he was unsure how the council could help.

“We obviously want you guys to succeed,” he said.

Franzen asked if the Thompsons would be willing to go through the appeal route, though the couple argued an appeal or legal proceedings would also take too long.

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Councillor James Brown said the city’s building inspector Bernie Zimmer would need to go back to the property, though the Thompsons said their relationship with Zimmer is not amicable, and that he was “not receptive.”

Brown seemed annoyed by the roadblocks the Thompsons have encountered while trying to expand their business.

In an email provided to The Northern View, Zimmer outlined four steps the Thompsons would need to take before obtaining a full building permit.

This included details of parking locations, confirmation of the Thompsons’ title covenant and their access of easement. The Thompsons believe Zimmer’s requests are unnecessary boundaries on their development.

According to the Thompsons, they would not have purchased the property if they knew it would be this difficult to expand.

“If we would have known all this we would not have gone through with the project,” said Clint.

At the time of publication, Zimmer was not available for comment.

About the Author: Seth Forward, Local Journalism Initiative

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