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Floating structure towed out of North Saanich bay after long dispute

Removal of structure comes months after RCMP, Beacon Community removed occupants
Crews with Cold Water Divers pulled out the last of three derelict liveaboard vessels from the marine foreshore off Lillian Hoffar Park last Thursday (March 24). (Courtesy of Penny Williamson)

The family of Lillian Hoffar, the namesake of a North Saanich park off which derelict boats were anchored for years, welcomed their removal last week.

Granddaughter Catherine Campbell said the family is very pleased to see the boats gone.

“We think it is deplorable that the situation was allowed to go on so long,” she said in a statement to Black Press. “We just hope that North Saanich will come up with a plan to keep the waters in the bay free of any more boats and wrecks.”

The district confirmed Cold Water Divers pulled the last of three derelict liveaboard vessels from the marine foreshore Thursday (March 24). The pilings and float to which the boats and related structures had been moored were removed later that day during low tide.

Staff said the municipality has incurred costs of approximately $50,000 relating to the issue, including hiring a contractor to remove the vessels, pilings and float, as well as legal fees. Crews have broken up the vessels, sorting parts for recycling or disposal. Those did not include the personal belongings of a man and woman who lived on the boats on and off for years until late 2021.

Beacon Community Services and the RCMP found the couple to “be in very ill health” during a December visit. They were initially placed in temporary accommodations, but later moved into long-term housing by the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction.

“We are very upset that the couple had gotten into so many health problems, but glad that Beacon Services and the RCMP stepped in and moved them off the boats,” Campbell wrote.

The liveaboards agreed to removal of their boats from the marine foreshore in February 2022 and North Saanich staff helped them collect their personal belongings prior to the boats’ removal.

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So ended what is likely one of the longest and most complex bylaw complaints in North Saanich. According to staff, the municipality has received complaints about the presence of liveaboard vessels and structures in the small bay off Lillian Hoffar Park since early 2017.

North Saanich, which owns the park and is in the middle of a 30-year lease for the foreshore from the province, stated the long-term presence of the vessels above the tideline amounted to trespassing on the foreshore, contrary to its lease and zoning.

Individuals living on board, as well others anchored in the bay, had consistently disagreed with this assessment. But to simply call this situation a case of trespassing understates its challenges. For one, it involved multiple vessels, whose removal would not only be complicated, but also costly. The individuals living on board also dealt with a number of personal issues, including significant medical problems.

“Throughout this process, (municipal) staff tried to be sensitive to the needs of the two people who were living aboard the vessels, taking a measured, people-first approach to the issue,” the municipality stated.

Campbell’s note struck a satisfied tone with the outcome, thanking municipal staff and the Friends of North Saanich Parks for helping to maintain the park under the circumstances.

“My son and I were down there yesterday and it felt so much more how my grandparents would have wanted it kept up,” she said.

The Campbell/Hoffar family gifted the land, which originally housed a boat building and repair business, to North Saanich more than 30 years ago for the purpose of establishing and maintaining a park.

“There are still several dinghies on the beach so as long as they are not abandoned, but used by boaters to come and go that is fine,” she said. “We just don’t want the area polluted anymore than it is.”

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Crews with Cold Water Divers pulled out the last of three derelict liveaboard vessels from the marine foreshore off Lillian Hoffar Park last Thursday (March 24). (Brian Green and Tom Barry, District of North Saanich)

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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