Faced with the prospect of daily fines, a group of friends in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley have been forced by the Municipality of the County of Kings to remove their recreational vehicles from two cottage lots.
In 2013, Rick and Heather Rood bought two cottage lots that total close to 42,000 square feet across the road from Lake George with three other couples: Jeffrey and Wendy Carty, Donavan and Juanita Methot, and Michael and Lori Stoddart.
One lot included a small cottage.
The group cleared the land and moved four RVs onto the property. The RVs were hooked up to an underground holding tank that was checked out by environment officials.
They were unaware they were breaking any zoning rules until a complaint was lodged with the municipality in October 2014. The area is zoned S-1, which stands for seasonal residential, and doesn't allow for RVs.
"If you move into this S-1 zone you are entitled to assume that there will be one cottage beside you on a 50,000-foot footprint," said Mayor Peter Muttart.
There are smaller cottage lots created before the rules came into place and they have been grandfathered.
Municipal officials are concerned about the impact on the lake's water quality and the stress on the local loon population from too much density.
Rick Rood points out cottage development continues in the area and there are RVs on many other nearby lots.
"Some have one, some have two, some have three," said Rood. "If you're not harming the water or your neighbours you should be able to enjoy the great outdoors."
Rood and his friends feel they have been unfairly targeted. But Muttart insists the municipality is just doing its job.
"We don't have land-use police, we are a complaint-driven system," said Muttart.
The group of friends tried to negotiate a development agreement with Kings County to make their RV setup legal. There was a public meeting in May 2015 where most people spoke in favour of the move, although a handful expressed concerns about setting a precedent.
But municipal staff never prepared an agreement and in December 2016 the county council rejected their application.
The four couples appealed the decision to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, which ruled in their favour in December 2017. The municipality then sent the case to the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal. This spring, it decided the UARB had overstepped its authority and found in the municipality's favour.
The four couples received a letter from Kings County at the end of May ordering the RVs removed by Sunday. An inspection was planned for Monday and if the RVs were not gone the owners would face daily fines of $237 for each person that owns the property.
'What if we pitched a tent?'
Heather Rood said Monday that three of the four RVs were moved this weekend, while the fourth has been disconnected and not currently being used. But the Roods said they still plan to try to enjoy their Lake George getaway.
"I don't think it's a matter of us leaving, it's a matter of not having a RV," said Rick Rood. "You know, what if we pitched a tent?"
Kings County has also just done a review of its land-use bylaw. In the final draft there is a proposed change to the seasonal zoning rules.
"If the regulations are passed, you will be able to put one RV on a 50,000-square-foot lot," said Muttart. "But not if there's already a cottage."
A public meeting on the proposed changes will be held in July before it goes to county council.
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