Glenda Serena couldn’t hold back her tears as Mission council voted down a temporary use permit to allow Mountain Falls Retreat to host weddings and other special events on its Laxton Avenue property.
“You’re ruining what should be one of the happiest moments in life,” said Serena, whose daughter had booked the facility for her May 4 wedding.
She explained guests from Europe have already arranged travel plans. “What about the families that have already invested in the business and are about to lose everything?” she asked rhetorically.
The Serenas, who live in Pitt Meadows, had visited Mountain Falls’ website, and were not aware the business didn’t have the proper permits to operate what was being advertised.
It was the website that alerted the District of Mission to the unauthorized use of the property in the Agricultural Land Reserve and it was only then the municipality received an application from the business, read a report to council.
Since 2006, the property has been landscaped and the house renovated. A number of accessory buildings were also put up for personal use, but a large tent still remains without a permit. The existing house is licensed for a three-bedroom bed and breakfast, and the current zoning on the property doesn’t allow for special events, such as weddings, it read.
Mission council rejected the zoning change and refused to forward the application to the Agricultural Land Commission with its support two weeks ago, but after meeting with mayor and staff, owner Steve Kaldis was back in council chambers Monday night seeking a temporary use permit. He said he’s invested $2 million into the business and 10 weddings have already been booked. While Mayor Ted Adlem and Councillor Tony Luck wanted to proceed to a public hearing, the rest of council had other views. Coun. Dave Hensman was absent from the meeting.
Here, we have a project that was started in 2006; has involved building without permits, conduct of business without licenses, then in 2013, they come in for a rezoning, said Coun. Jenny Stevens.
“This is a concept which I would find interesting and could be good for Mission if any attempt had been made to follow legal requirements in due process. If we allow this to happen, we may as well tear up every zoning bylaw we have and ignore the Official Community Plan,” she added.
Mountain Falls Retreat manager Maria Silva, who gave a brief presentation to council about the business vision earlier in the evening, said “there are consequences to not following the rules.”
Kaldis agreed. “We have to accept our punishment. We have to work hard to explain ourselves.”
While the business will not be expanding, Kaldis said they will focus on their businesses and what they can do on the land, including plans to build a spice and herb garden.
“And we’ll keep building relationships with the community,” said Silva.