Writers’ retreat hosted despite legal warnings from regional district

NANAIMO – Regional District of Nanaimo advised organizers that event contravened bylaws.

Cedar farm owners forged ahead with a writers’ retreat last weekend despite warnings of legal and enforcement action from the Regional District of Nanaimo.

Thistledown Farm owners Laurie Gourlay and Jackie Moad hosted a retreat for about a dozen writers, poets and authors at their eight-hectare bed and breakfast, defiant of a warning by the regional district and its legal counsel that the event – or any public assembly – is not allowed on the property and could prompt enforcement action.

The Regional District of Nanaimo reports that it’s received complaints about the retreat and that zoning regulations do not allow public assembly or camping on the property. An advertisement for the event showed there would be both.

Gourlay, however, told the News Bulletin Thursday that he and Moad were prepared to go to court. He’s frustrated, confused and feels the district was unwilling to answer questions. This also isn’t the first time they’ve hosted an event. They open their property to non-profits and other activities, including the regional district’s Green Building home tour last year.

“It’s not like it’s Woodstock or something that’s going on,” said Gourlay. “It’s just a little gathering, quiet, some writers getting together to talk and compare notes.”

Jeremy Holm, regional district manager of current planning, who spoke to the News Bulletin prior to the event, said the RDN has had complaints and is obligated to enforce land use regulations. They provided advice on the issue and are open to talking to the property owners but believe the use, as described in the event program, is contrary to zoning regulations and constitutes public assembly.

It will be up to the regional district board if any enforcement action is taken, he said.