Marianne Dawson and Brendan Cosby were going to have their dream coastal wedding this April at an oceanside lodge in Ucluelet on Vancouver Island.
That was until a recent B.C. Supreme Court decision squashed the Port Moody couple's plans by ruling The Lodge at Terrace Beach is no longer allowed to hold large-scale commercial events, including weddings.
The ruling comes in response to a petition to enforce a neighbourhood building scheme, which petitioners allege The Lodge's commercial activity violates.
Dawson says she's feeling "shocked. A little bit of disbelief." She'd booked the venue at 1090 Peninsula Rd., in early 2022.
"We need to move quickly to try to find another solution," she said.
She and Crosby are now racing to book another venue that can accommodate 60 guests.
She says they're doubtful they'll find a suitable place without spending extra money on travel, new caterers, bartenders and other vendors they'd booked well in advance.
Neighbours petition for building scheme enforcement
In 2021, The Lodge owners Ronald Clayton and Gordon Elliott received permits from the District of Ucluelet to up-zone two adjacent lots in the Reef Point Beach Estates subdivision from "Guest House" and "Single-Family Residential" designations to "Tourist Commercial."
This would "greatly expand commercial possibilities on the lots, including a restaurant and commercial entertainment," writes Justice David Crerar is his court ruling.
One of the properties — Lot 35, home to The Lodge — currently has about 19 guestrooms, and can host about 42 guests.
The application to up-zone didn't sit well with neighbours in the subdivision, including Mike Foy and Michelle Belanger.
In August that year, they appealed the development to district council, arguing "Terrace Beach North is one of the last unspoiled natural areas in Ucluelet. Please help us to preserve it."
They then filed a petition to B.C. Supreme Court in early 2022, asking to enforce the building scheme that would keep the community largely residential.
According to the ruling, the petitioners complain that "over the past decade, activity at The Lodge has increased in a manner that they say interferes with the quiet enjoyment of the subdivision and their properties."
On Nov. 24, the court ruled largely in favour of the petitioners, ordering The Lodge limit commercial activity and "not offer, host, solicit or advertise large-scale events, including weddings, reunions, conventions or retreats" on Lot 35.
Bruce Grieg, Ucluelet's manager of community planning, says the district was aware of community opposition and support to developing the neighbourhood when it held a public hearing over the zoning amendments.
Regarding the court ruling, Grieg says the district "has no standing in this private legal matter" between the residents and the developers.
'Very real impacts' on wedding
Clayton said in an email he "deeply regret[s] the inconvenience and understand[s] the stress caused by the disruption.
"We are actively working to find alternative venues for those guests impacted by the court ruling," wrote Clayton.
Dawson says The Lodge would have been able to provide space for the wedding ceremony, reception and overnight accommodations for all guests, and she's feeling "shock, anger, and sadness at realizing we're not going to have the wedding we thought."
She says she was most surprised the Supreme Court wouldn't at least allow The Lodge to fulfil its existing business contracts.
"Nothing was grandfathered in," she said. "The court decision … had extremely stressful and very real impacts to us now that we're scrambling to find another solution."
Dawson says Clayton seemed "quite torn up" about the situation, and promptly offered them refunds and help finding a new venue — but she's concerned other vendors she'd booked won't be so forgiving.