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B.C. lakeside community considering restrictions on cabin sizes

British Columbia Resorts Photo by Shutterstock/Alisa Khliestkova

A B.C. region is looking at limiting the size and number of cabins allowed on lakeshore properties zoned as resorts.

During an October 26 board of directors meeting, the Thompson-Nicola Regional District (TNRD), a 45,000 square kilometre stretch of B.C. interior that encompasses Kamloops, asked staff to look into how other rural regional districts are regulating the size of builds on lakeshore resort properties.

“[Lakeshore resort property owners] can come in and say we just want to put up some cabins that are going to be, say, 1,000 sq. ft. Quaint little cabins that are going to be tucked into the wilderness,” says Ward Stamer, the mayor of Barriere, B.C., and the director who brought the motion forward. “Then, all of a sudden, you look and they’re building these 3,000, 4,000 sq. ft. homes. But we don’t have the bylaw in place to be able to say, Oh no you’re not.”

Stamer explains that there’s limited waterfront property within the TNRD. “There’s not a lot of land you can develop. Take Adams Lake, for example. It’s a dirt road for 67 kilometres, you’ve got limited power opportunities, and it’s a seasonal lake,” he says.

The areas zoned as resorts are intended to provide public access to the water. Normally, this type of land is used as RV parks, campgrounds, or a space for small, affordable cabins that people can rent. But in recent years, Stamer says he’s seen developers snatch up these properties and build million-dollar cabins. Due to the resort zoning, the developers can’t sell these cabins to individuals, but there are ways around this with timeshares and other ownership strategies.

“People from the coast that have lots of money are looking to buy and develop these properties because it’s only a million bucks or two million bucks. That’s peanuts,” Stamer says. “But the only reason it’s $1 million or $2 million is because it’s zoned for the purpose of shared space. If it was zoned residential, you wouldn’t get it for $2 million. It would be $10 million.”

Without oversight, Stamer says he’s worried people will be priced out of visiting lakes in the region. It also doesn’t sit right with him that developers have full control over what’s built on waterfront property without having to consult local municipalities or Indigenous groups.

“They could split the property in half and build six houses on the one side while keeping the old campground running on the other side. But then next year, they may change their mind and decide to build 10 more houses where the campground is, and there’s nothing we can do about it,” Stamer says. “Not to mention all the environmental impacts.”

Adams Lake, along with smaller bodies of water near Bridge Lake, are a few of the areas Stamer’s concerned about. That’s why he asked staff to look into it. During the October 26 meeting, chief administrative officer Scott Hildebrand anticipated that the report on how other regions are dealing with the zoning issue would be ready to present in February.

“I’d like to see what the other regional districts are doing and what we can actually do to enforce the zoning,” Stamer says. “Whether that means they can’t get a building permit, there are liens on titles, building inspections, or even stop works.”

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