The Metro Vancouver regional government has filed a lawsuit against a West Vancouver couple that claims the property owners have illegally encroached on public parkland by building irrigated flower beds, a lawn, storage shed and full entertainment pavilion within Capilano River Regional Park.
The lawsuit, filed in April by Metro Vancouver and the Greater Vancouver Water District, seeks damages from homeowners John and Janice Campbell, saying the couple have sought to improve the value of their property at 65 Deep Dene Rd. in West Vancouver by removing and limbing trees and building garden beds and structures.
The lawsuit alleges structures built on parkland include a raised flower bed, storage shed, four-metre-wide pergola and pavilion “including a roofed entertainment area, concrete foundations, paved floor and masonry fireplace” along with a mounted television, sink, refrigerator and plumbed sink.
Several healthy trees between 20 and 100 years old were removed from the park to make way for the new structures, the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit alleges the encroachments – which occupy about 848 square metres of park space – have been added since 2004, but the regional government only discovered them in February of last year.
In court documents, the regional government describes the couple’s actions as “reckless, self-interested, high handed and showed a callous disregard for the environmental sanctity of the park lands.”
The government is seeking damages and an injunction requiring the couple to remove the structures.
But in a statement of defence filed in court at the end of April the couple argues that being forced to remove the structures would create considerable hardship for them.
In court documents, the couple admits that their structures encroach on the parkland, but add that a fence enclosed the land when they bought the property in 1990. They believed the land belonged to them until they were notified otherwise this year, the couple wrote.
The couple acknowledge in their statement of defence that “they removed some trees,” but added “all such trees were dead or dying and constituted a threat to the health and safety” of their property.
The couple added in court documents that a Hydro right-of-way runs through the parkland near the border of their property and so the land in question has never been covered in natural forest. They added the land isn’t accessible to the public.
The couple alleges in their lawsuit that Metro Vancouver was aware they were building structures on the land, and by its silence, tacitly approved of it.
The couple adds they have spent considerable money on the improvements, believing them to be on their own property. “It would be unconscionable to permit the plaintiffs to assert their strict legal rights in the circumstances,” they said in court documents.
The case remains before the courts.