Nelson city council’s housing committee will recommend to council that 12 sites in the city campground be kept open for the winter on an experimental basis.
At its meeting on Tuesday, the committee heard from one of its members, John Alton, who said there are presently six people living in the campground who can’t find housing and that in the summer there were a dozen. The campground normally closes at the end of October.
A Star article on Wednesday profiled several people, two of them with children, all of them students or employed, who have been in the campground all summer, unable to find other accommodation.
Alton proposed that 12 sites in the campground be kept open this winter and that temporary winterization of the campground office building could be paid for with campground fees of between $500 and $750 per month.
These are sites that are fully serviced and so are suitable for recreational vehicles. The pilot winterization would involve window plastic and electric space heaters in the campground building which has a cooking area, office, washrooms, showers, and a laundry room.
The housing committee consists of about a dozen people from various sectors in Nelson and is chaired by councillor Michael Dailly. The campground is owned by the city and managed by the Nelson and District Youth Centre which is funded by the city.
The housing committee’s recommendation to council reads: “that the city explore the implementation of a pilot project that will provide rental sites on a month to month basis in the winter season of 2016-17.”
The vote to make this recommendation passed, but with many abstentions stemming from uncertainty about the committee’s role in decisions about the campground, whose purpose, some members pointed out, is tourism, not housing.
“It would involve a change of land use,” said one member, who added that the new plan could eventually lead to all the sites becoming permanent housing. He questioned what would happen in April: would the winter residents be asked to leave to make way for tourists?
Dailly said that regardless of whether such a recommendation is in the committee’s mandate, it will get the matter before council.
Alton also said there is a more long-term plan under development which would see the permanent winterization of the building but this is not part of the recommendation going to council.
Alton said city campgrounds in Revelstoke and Fernie are open all winter.