Following some tension – and last-minute legal advice – White Rock council has given the man behind a makeshift church structure on Marine Drive extra time to prepare for a “reconsideration” hearing regarding the site’s declaration as a “nuisance.”
The extension, granted Monday morning during a special council meeting called specifically to deal with the matter, gives Robin Douglas until 9 a.m. July 27 to organize evidence and seek legal advice of his own.
Douglas – pastor of the cannabis-based Church of the Holy Smoke, which has been operating out of a tent structure in the 14700-block of Marine Drive for about four months – was advised last week that he had until July 24 to remove the structure and garbage from the property.
The deadline followed a unanimous vote by council on July 13 to adopt a resolution brought forward by director of development services Karen Cooper, declaring the site a “nuisance.” The resolution notes the site is an “eyesore” and “out of character with the neighbourhood.” As well, it states, the structure does not comply with city bylaws or provincial building regulations, and has been the subject of complaints about smoke, garbage and noise from neighbours.
The resolution also followed three rounds of escalating fines – $150, $500 and $1,000 – issued by bylaw officers.
Granting Douglas an extension Monday – in asking for one, he noted he had not had time to gather evidence or seek legal counsel, having only learned of the hearing on Friday – was not council’s first inclination, even after city clerk Tracey Arthur made a point of reiterating Douglas’ reasons for the request.
After council voted unanimously to deny the request, Douglas declared he was going to leave, that his Constitutional rights had been violated and that he would be asking the province to intervene in the matter.
At that point, Arthur suggested council take a recess to consult with the city’s legal counsel.
They returned about 40 minutes later and advised Douglas he had the extra time he’d asked for.
In granting the extension, Mayor Wayne Baldwin noted council would only be hearing arguments “with respect to health and welfare issues.”
Douglas had stated earlier that the property has since been cleared of garbage, and that evidence he needed time to gather included legal arguments for and against religious organizations and religious freedoms.
“This has not anything to do with religious freedoms,” Baldwin responded.
Arthur told Peace Arch News Tuesday that the July 24 deadline would be rescheduled after the hearing.