By Margot Grant
A company that owns six lots next to the proposed George Hotel development says it intends to take the Town of Gibsons, the provincial government and the former owners of the Gibsons Marina to court unless its rights to deep water access are recognized.
Shoal Bay Properties claims its riparian rights of access to deep water are interfered with by the water lot boundaries of the marina and the proposed George Hotel development.
Riparian rights ensure owners of waterfront property access along all points of the natural foreshore of their property to deep water at any time, including low tide. These common law rights are based on legal precedent and guidelines laid out by the B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, according to Shoal Bay Properties vice-president Bob Papau.
In an email dated February, 2014 Papau informed the ministry that the water lot lease boundaries of the marina should be reconfigured to accommodate the boat moorage requirements of a possible condo development on its properties.
Shoal Bay Properties has no plans to develop such a project and has not applied for rezoning or development permits, but it does want to sell the lots, which lie along 300 ft. of waterfront between the proposed George Hotel site and the Gibsons Marina.
The ministry leases the water lot to the Town, which in turn subleased the lot from the ministry to Gibsons Marina Hotel Incorporated (GMHI). GMHI’s sublease was recently sold to Klaus Fuerniss Enterprises, which is in the process of seeking permission from the Town to build the Hotel George.
The Town of Gibsons last week announced it had agreed to the sale. The province has yet to approve it.
Shoal Bay Properties president Chris O’Toole said that his company has been asking the ministry and the town for at least three years to have its riparian rights of access respected. O’Toole said he hopes that a solution can be found and that legal action will not be necessary.
Ministry spokesman Keith Anderson has confirmed that the matter could go to court. “This is a Common Law issue and the requirement will differ from property to property. The correct definition for any specific property can only be determined by a judge in a court of law,” Anderson said.
Town of Gibsons Corporate Officer Selina Williams and Chief Administrative Officer Emanuel Machado said in an email before the Town approved the sale that “the town is working cooperatively with all parties, including Shoal Bay, and discussions are ongoing.”
UPDATE: After this story appeared on the Facebook page "Gibsons Community Concerns and FYI Posts on May 12th 20155 , Karen Green Nielsen, bookkeeper with Klaus Fuerniss Enterprises Inc, wrote on Facebook:
“You may want an update to the story before spreading this rumor too far and wide. An agreement was reached between all parties without having to involve the courts.”
Bob Papau, vice-president of Shoal Bay Enterprises, has since denied there is any agreement. The company still intends to take legal action if its rights are not recognized.