A longstanding dispute over the operation of a local business has been resolved in the District of Sooke’s favour by the B.C. Supreme Court.
The court action arose from the District of Sooke’s claim that the use of the property at 5536 Sooke Rd. violated the Local Government Act and local bylaws.
The defendants, Shawn Driver and Driver Enterprises, have used the property to operate a welding, fabrication, and vehicle repair business shortly after Driver bought the approximately one-hectare property in September 2000.
Driver Enterprises has since added painting services, used car sales, auto parts sales, and merchandising. Some of the buildings on the property when Driver bought it have been expanded without the necessary permits, as well as a large steel building connected to the original barn.
The district argued that Driver Enterprises contravened several bylaws, including zoning, and undertook development without a valid permit.
“The zoning of the property is and was, at all material times, restricted to residential and agricultural uses,” Justice Gordon Weatherill said in his ruling on Jan. 10.
Driver argued that although he doesn’t reside on the property, he lives next to it, so his business operation should be permitted not only as a non-conforming use under the Local Government Act but also as a home-based business under the zoning bylaw.
He also argued that the district is prevented from enforcing its bylaws because it allowed the business to operate for almost 20 years.
Weatherill said he understood the defendants’ position to be that they should be exempted from compliance with the zoning bylaw because the plaintiff allowed them to operate the business for many years without challenge, even engaging their services on various occasions over the years.
Weatherill said, however, that the law is clear that the rights, duties and powers of a municipality, including the duties to carry out the provisions of a statute, “are of such a public nature that they cannot be waived, limited, or vitiated by mere acquiescence, laches, or estoppel. Once a clear breach of a bylaw has been established, the court has little discretion to disallow the enforcement of a bylaw regardless of such acquiescence.”
Weatherill decided that the district had established a clear breach by the defendants with regard to the zoning, business license, and building permit bylaws.
After hearing both parties submissions, Weatherill ruled that the district has been “substantially” successful, and is entitled to its costs.