Despite orders from the City of White Rock to shut down the Church of the Holy Smoke – and frustration from the property owner who thinks stronger action should be taken – it will continue to operate, according to the man at the helm of the Marine Drive gathering place.
Prior to a brief but tense standoff Tuesday in front of his 14737 Marine Drive rental property, which included White Rock bylaw officers and several RCMP officers, Robin Douglas told Peace Arch News that he and supporters of his marijuana-centred church will no longer be gathering in the tent structure, instead moving the activities onto the home’s porch.
“We’re not having any gatherings in the tent, but we are having gatherings in my new office, which is on the porch of my house,” Douglas said. “We still have people stopping by and people coming in and celebrating with us.”
The tent is still standing in the yard, now housing his 1993 Cadillac, however, according to a notice delivered to Douglas last Friday from the city’s director of planning and development, it is still in contravention of city zoning bylaws due to setback requirements.
City bylaw officers were at the property Tuesday afternoon – along with White Rock RCMP officers and the property owner – attempting to measure the tent and yard.
When Douglas refused to allow White Rock officials access, RCMP officers threatened Douglas with arrest should he continue to obstruct the city workers from the yard.
Douglas eventually relented and allowed them on site, noting he was doing so “under duress.”
Exchanges between Douglas and his landlord – who would not give his name – were heated.
“I gave you a warning to leave this property last month, why are you still here?” the landlord shouted, referring to an eviction notice served in early June.
The landlord, who said he has owned the property since 1993 and began renting to Douglas last November, said he was surprised the situation has yet to be resolved.
“The City of White Rock can’t take care of him?” he said. “I’m totally surprised. They’re sending him all kinds of letters. Just put him in jail!”
Douglas moved his church operations out of the tent and onto the porch after the city ordered the tent be removed and operations ceased – with a deadline of July 31 – citing public safety and the property’s use as an assembly place was in contravention of city bylaws.
A city spokesperson confirmed Tuesday that the tent had not been removed, after Douglas advised officials that “our facility is now closed as of midnight tonight, Friday the 31st of July.”
Because the tent is being used as a workshop, the spokesperson said, “the public safety issues have been resolved with the cease of public-assembly use.”
A hearing is set with the province’s tenancy branch for Aug. 12 to address Douglas’ eviction notice. The landlord said if it is not resolved, he is “going straight to the ministry.”
Douglas told PAN Wednesday that his lawyer is planning to file an injunction against the city, and that his church supporters will continue to “worship God without fear of persecution.”