Seacrest Tenants Association president Doug Gunning

Seacrest Tenants Association president Doug Gunning

South Surrey Seacrest evictees stand pat at site

Residents of the South Surrey RV Park are going head-to-head with a developer over plans to redevelop the RV park that they call home.

Residents of the Seacrest Motel and RV Park are going head-to-head with a developer over plans to redevelop the trailer park that they call home.

Lark Projects Ltd. wants to redevelop the 864 160 St. property into 22 single-family lots. Currently, there are 35 RV sites, 11 manufactured home sites and a 12-room motel situated on the property.

Seacrest trailer park residents and representatives from Lark sat in on a conference-call hearing with the Residential Tenancy Branch Wednesday to determine whether the trailers qualify as manufactured homes.

Under the provincial government’s Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act, owners of manufactured homes who pay pad rent to the property owner must receive 12 months notice of their final moving date. The residents must also be paid the equivalent of 12 months rent.

If the RTB rules that the trailers are recreational, the residents would be forced to leave much sooner with no compensation.

Lark gave residents one-month notice on Aug. 31 to vacate the property.

The following month, Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner told the residents to stay put and wait for a judgment by the Residential Tenancy Branch.

The hearing, scheduled for this week was ultimately postponed because the adjudicator said the case was too large to complete in a one-hour conference call.

A date has not been set for the next hearing, but both sides speculated it would be held within the next couple of months.

In the meantime, the remaining trailer-park residents – some having lived there more than seven years – will stay put. There are about 15 RVs still inhabited on the property.

Kirk Fisher, vice-president of Lark, told Peace Arch News after the hearing was postponed that his company has offered “very fair” settlements to the remaining residents, and read aloud a positive testimonial that he says was submitted by the most recent resident to accept a settlement package.

Fisher said that if the RTB ruling favours Seacrest residents, each would receive approximately $6,000, but noted that Lark is offering more money if they agree to leave sooner.

“The max they are going to get is $6,000, in our opinion, by reading the legislation. We have offered substantially above $6,000,” Fisher said.

Seacrest resident Doug Gunning was shocked to learn Fisher had informed PAN about the offers, citing a “gag order.”

According to the non-disclosure agreement – signed by residents and Fisher – both parties had a meeting last Sunday, and any discussion at the meeting is for purposes of “settlement only, and is confidential.”

The document states that anything from the meeting cannot be used at the RTB hearing.

“If he told you that about the meeting on Sunday, he has broken a gag order,” Gunning said, adding he could not talk dollar figures. “But what you were told, right now, I would say that’s not even within any ballpark of what’s being offered to us. We cannot mention any sums.”

Gunning, along with Seacrest residents Roberta Vezina and Jim Farkas, told PAN Wednesday that they believe the regulations on manufactured homes and recreational vehicles are outdated.

“The RVs nowadays are basically manufactured homes. People are living in them, people cannot afford $1.5 million houses and are (instead) living in ($15,000 to $60,000) RV units, which are trailers and fifth wheels,” Gunning said.

“The regulations are not current to where we’re at. The regulations applied 30 or 40 years ago – when a trailer was a trailer and a fifth wheel was an RV that you used on vacation.”

The group hopes the case will set a precedent.

“This hearing and this decision is a stepping stone for a change throughout the province… It’s going to change the rules and regulations for affordable housing.”

Vezina, who lives on a disability pension, said most apartments are out of her price range and the ones she can afford tend to be in areas with a lot of crime.

“I thought this would be a feasible way to have a roof over my head (and) pay lower rent,” she said.

The three believe their current living situation is the answer to affordable housing.

“We’re not trying to throw mud. What we’re trying to do responsibly is show that we are now the modern community. We are now the modern take of affordable housing. Let’s not miss this folks, let’s not miss this point,” Gunning said.

The group prepared a 700-page document that they say proves that they are living in manufactured homes and not recreational vehicles.

Gunning said the residents have made the park home; they have maintained their property, built decks, pay for hydro, receive year-round frost-free water and are provided year-round sewage.

“We live the same life as those in manufactured homes,” Gunning said.

Fisher told PAN that Lark is not trying to take advantage of anyone; it just wants to develop the property.

“We want to be fair with the residents.”