Boat owners Karna and Gord Balsillie are hoping they can get answers from the City of Surrey about why their contract for moorage at Ward’s Marina has been terminated – and why they face seizure of their boat.
In September of last year, the couple – who have moored boats at the marina on the Nicomekl River for 23 years – heard that the moorage contract for their 40-foot cruising catamaran, Elysium, was being terminated for a series of violations.
The Balsillies, who deny they have violated the contract, say they have been trying to get a hearing from city staff to tell their side of the story, but without result.
Instead, they have received formal warning by the city that unless they move their boat the city intends to sell or otherwise dispose of it.
Surrey media liaison Oliver Lum told Peace Arch News staff are not able to comment on the case as it is the subject of pending legal action.
But Karna Balsillie said the couple have yet to receive formal notification of proceedings. She also noted that, in a sheaf of correspondence dating back to September of last year, they have dealt with at least seven different members of city staff, without being granted a face-to-face meeting to discuss the issues.
And, she said, they have also submitted cheques to pay for their continued moorage, which have not been accepted by the city.
“This is our retirement,” Karna Balsillie said, adding that while the couple have largely finished refurbishing the Elysium in the seven years since they bought it, work still remains to be done on the interior.
She said the boat is insured for $70,000, though she believes that it could reach $250,000 and beyond on the market when fully restored.
She noted the couple have retained a lawyer, and have also received confirmation that the B.C. Ombudsman’s office is investigating.
Even if they could be proven culpable of some offence, she said, they deserve a chance to discuss and resolve any issues.
“We don’t want to be unreasonable,” she said. “If a third party made an independent decision, we’d go along with it.”
In a Sept. 29, 2014 letter from the Surrey parks department, they were told they had been living onboard the vessel, had stored personal assets at the marina’s washdown pad without authorization, and that they had extended use of the washdown pad and boat repair building beyond the specified term.
It was further alleged they were storing personal vehicles on city parkland near the marina without authorization.
Balsillie said they vehemently reject the allegations, and have asked the city to provide the “written, anecdotal and photographic” information it claims to have.
A request to extend their moorage contract had previously been granted by the city on compassionate grounds, she noted, when repair work had to be delayed because the couple was dealing with a family illness.
On their side, they say they can produce support letters from many Mud Bay Yacht Club members, who note their long record of positive contributions to the boating community.
Balsillie said word that they are “being kicked out of Ward’s Marina” has circulated, making it difficult to find moorage elsewhere.
She said she believes they are being victimized by complaints from one or two individuals, without being given a chance to respond.
“We’ve talked to a lot of people and they say ‘it sounds like a witch hunt’ or ‘it sounds like a vendetta,’” she said. “Are we fighting city hall? I guess we are. If they can do this to us, they can do it to anyone.”