A couple in the Kootenay community of Salmo, B.C. says the municipality is forcing them off their own property because they aren’t building their own home fast enough.
But the village’s mayor says there’s plenty more to the story.
Kodiak Puckett and Ashley Nelson have been living in a fifth-wheel trailer on the property, and have erected a roof over top of it to protect it.
Last spring, they were issued a stop-work order for the structure, because they did not have a permit for it.
The couple say they were also told they needed to get a building permit for the home they’re planning, along with a camping permit in order to stay, which they understood was good for a year.
Six months in, they say that permit was cancelled because they haven’t poured any concrete, and they’ve been given until Dec. 15 to stop living on the land.
“It basically leaves us homeless, in the middle of winter, during a global pandemic, during a non-existent rental market in the area,” Puckett said.
“In their mind, they say we haven’t poured concrete yet, six months into our build. Nowhere into the bylaws does it say six months in, or on our building permit, six months in you have to have concrete poured.”
Puckett’s father is the official homeowner-builder of the property, and the couple say plans have been delayed first by COVID-19 travel restrictions, then when he had health issues.
They say they’ve been clearing the land and milling wood for the home, which they consider to be part of the building process.
But Salmo Mayor Diana Lockwood says the dispute over the property has been going on for two full years, and that the occupants haven’t been following regulations.
She said the property owners were told as far back as 2018 that they needed to sort out a water system before they could get a sewer system in — the issue holding everything else up.
“As local government, we have to follow regulations like sewer regulations and stuff like that,” she said.
“They’ve built things without building permits. We’re not allowed to do that in our province.”
Lockwood denied the couple would be left homeless, noting they have a trailer that could simply be moved elsewhere.
And she said the couple were trying to use COVID-19 as a shield.
“This started in 2018. COVID didn’t exist in 2018. So what is the excuse from 2018 to the time that COVID hit our community?”
But Puckett maintains the village is not acting in good faith, and that he and Nelson should be allowed to stay for the full term of their permit.
“We would like our time that we have paid for to be able to live on our property and build our home,” he said.