A North Vancouver man who built a shed on a privately owned lot in the middle of the forest has been ordered by a B.C. Supreme Court justice to take it down.
Justice Gregory Fitch granted an injunction to the District of North Vancouver in December, saying Bill Guest's 10-by-10-foot shed didn't comply with local bylaws, which essentially banned any construction on the land.
But following the ruling, Guest said he's not giving up. Instead, he's working on a design for a larger home with a sprinkler system and is still hopeful the district will allow him to build it.
"There's something not quite right here," he said. "The lot is residentially zoned."
In giving his decision, Fitch said while district staff probably gave Guest the wrong information about building a shed shortly after he bought the property, that didn't change the effect of the bylaw or outweigh public safety concerns.
Guest, who lives in an apartment in lower Lonsdale, bought the property on the side of Mount Seymour for $90,000 four years ago after seeing it listed on the real estate Multiple Listing Service.
"I just fell in love with the forest," he said last summer.
Three years ago, he hired a local company to build the 10-foot-by-10-foot shed to store his tools, books, bottles of water and even a fire extinguisher where they would stay dry.
Because the shed is small and isn't being lived in, Guest said he didn't think he needed a permit. He adds that's what he was told when he checked with municipality.
But less than 10 days after the shed was built, the District of North Vancouver came calling to tell Guest that's not the case. District staff told him that although
the property is residentially zoned, because there is no road access or water supply, it's illegal to build on it.
The forested property is one of about 65 isolated private lots in the municipality's forest or alpine areas. Most of those were drawn up on maps many decades ago and were essentially speculative.
But the built-up areas of North Vancouver never moved that far into the forest.
Chief among the municipal concerns is the potential for some kind of human-caused fire that could quickly spread to the surrounding forest, particularly from a lot with no water supply.
In an affidavit presented in court, Al Karimbadi, the district's manager of permits and licences, told the judge, "It was and still is my opinion that a man-made building generally presents a fire risk that is greater than a forest in its natural state. A building typically necessitates the use of fuels and other combustible materials, electricity, tools and equipment as well as other spark/fire-generating activities, and can attract vandalism, carelessness or use by trespassers."
Karimbadi added that concern was heightened because of the "frequently tinder-dry conditions of the forest in the summer."
In court, where he represented himself, Guest compared the property - where he has created paving stone pathways, small gardens and a wooden deck over a tiny pond - to being his back yard.
But the judge didn't agree.
Fitch also dismissed Guest's point that a Scouts' cabin without a road access or water supply also exists on Mount Seymour.
"One non-compliant structure cannot form the basis for others," he wrote in his decision. Fitch ordered the shed removed before May 31, unless Guest can work out another arrangement with the municipality.