The Court of Appeal has sided with the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako in a dispute with a water bottling company at Fraser Lake. (Black Press Media file photo)

Appeals court backs RDBN in Fraser Lake business dispute

The British Columbia Court of Appeal has backed the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) in its dispute with a water bottling company in Fraser Lake.

At the heart of the case is how a family is defined.

A company called FRC Holdings Inc. in 2012 and 2014 acquired two properties on Gala Bay Road, on the north side of Fraser Lake.

A family had been operating the water bottling business as a home-based one, at the site that was zoned as waterfront residential.

Jace McCord took over the operation and moved onto the property.

He owned shares in Gala Bay Springs Water Company Inc. but not in FRC.

The RDBN said that McCord had moved onto the property mainly for business reasons and not for personal living reasons.

In February 2013, FRC applied to have the restrictions for home-based businesses removed for the site, but the RDBN turned it down.

The RDBN received complaints about the business and in November 2014 it became concerned that an additional building on the adjoining property was used for business purposes.

FRC Holdings and Gala Bay Springs responded, saying the property wasn’t used for business, however on three occasions in 2016 RDBN inspections discovered bottling materials being stored on the adjoining property, in violation of the home occupancy bylaw. The operation’s floor space was also larger than the maximum allowed.

In February 2018, the RDBN obtained an injunction from a B.C. Supreme Court that basically ordered Gala Bay to halt operations, and the issue went on to the Court of Appeal.

The Court, in its March 15 decision on Bulkley-Nechako (Regional District) v. FRC Holdings Inc. sided with the RDBN.

“The judge correctly held that the bylaw regulates uses, not users, and that it was open to the respondent to impose restrictions on its application to prohibit commercial uses of land in residential zones,” according to a summary of the decision on the Courts of British Columbia website.

Commenting to Lakes District News about the decision, Gerry Thiessen, chair of the board of directors of the RDBN said, “We at the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako have a great sense of confidence that the courts have recognized our bylaws and have ruled in favour of them. We will continue to make sure we have strong bylaws and zoning to protect the citizens of our Regional District.”

Gala Bay Springs Water is shut down until further notice, McCord explained, but the company is consulting with its lawyers to become compliant with RDBN bylaws.

“We don’t have any absolute plans at the moment. But we’re looking to stay fairly close to where we are now. We’re on the north shore of Fraser Lake. It would cost too much to transport water too far. It wouldn’t be fair to pass those costs off to our customers,” said McCord, who added that he has delivered to customers throughout the region, including on the Southside.

“People like our natural spring water with nothing added and nothing removed and people like that we deliver it to their homes,” he said.

“But if we move out of our current location, how will we get the water? That’s a fixed location because of the source. And that’s the most attractive aspect of the business.”

Blair McBride
Multimedia reporter
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