British Columbia·CBC Investigates

Chip Wilson begins building huge dock after 2-year fight with neighbours

After more than two years of trying to stop or alter Lululemon founder Chip Wilson's plans to build a huge dock at his Sunshine Coast property, neighbours say noisy construction has now begun on the project.

Lululemon billionaire's neighbours hope NDP government will review the construction project

Construction on Chip Wilson's Sunshine Coast dock is now underway north of Sechelt, B.C. (Arnhild Hognestad)

After more than two years of trying to stop or alter Lululemon founder Chip Wilson's plans to build a huge dock at his B.C. Sunshine Coast property, neighbours say noisy construction has now begun on the project.

"We actually have the dock right in front of our house. It's away from his buildings, so we are the ones that are actually directly impacted," said next door neighbour Arnhild Hognestad. She and her husband bought a property at Middlepoint between Halfmoon Bay and Madeira Park, about 80 kilometres north of Vancouver, three years ago — just a couple months before the dock project plans emerged.

"It's right there," said Hognestad, whose view out the window is now littered with construction barges and the piles that have already been drilled into the seabed. "It is a big construction site."

Vancouverite Chip Wilson is the founder and former CEO of Lululemon Athletica. He is worth $2.1 billion US according to Forbes, ranking 854 on its annual list of the world's billionaires. (Ben Nelms/Reuters)

Neighbours say during the last two years, Wilson — who has attracted controversy for his comments about women's bodies and an April Fool's prank in Vancouver — hasn't met with them, instead sending representatives. 

Construction plans show the dock's deck will be 448 square metres, but the project's footprint will be more than a quarter of an acre, including berths capable of fitting at least two 50-foot yachts. There are no local regulations on the size of docks.

The dock will extend about 90 metres — almost the length of a football field — directly out from the shoreline. Plans show a ramp and large floating dock that jut away from Wilson's property and toward Hognestad's.

"The opening of the dock isn't toward his home, it is toward our house. So, when the yachts come in, they actually have to come right up towards our shoreline in order to moor," said Hognestad.

Plans submitted to the B.C. government show the scale of Chip Wilson's dock, currently under construction. (Hemmera)

Neighbours hoped to stop project

Hognestad and her neighbours were hoping the project would be stopped, but the B.C. Government's Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources gave Wilson and his wife, Shannon, the green light in March.

Connie Smith has a cabin four properties south of Wilson's. She and her daughter Meghan Smith are hoping, with a new provincial government in power, something can still be done to put the dock project on hold.

"As long as there's a glimmer of hope, we'll take it," said Smith, adding that she was told there's no appeal process.

"We're just curious and confused about how this happened and how quickly [the government] dismissed, in the final decision, the environmental impact," she said.

Docks have been a point of conflict on the Sunshine Coast in the past, with the Sechelt Nation playing an oversight role in dock construction and repairs.

Chip Wilson's dock, once completed, will extend nearly the length of a football field out from the shore. (Hemmera)

Concerns over ecological impact

Meghan Smith wrote a letter to the province requesting a review of the dock. It highlights concerns about the ecological impact, adding that the area is used by the marbled murrelet as a feeding ground.

A biologist's report notes the bird is listed as "threatened" in Canada's Species at Risk Act and lives in the area, but the dock could only affect its feeding habitat and not the more critical nesting area.

"From the very beginning, and more than ever now — the process of this proposal has been secretive and seemingly exclusive, with no regard to environmental or public outrage," read Meghan Smith's letter.

A statement from the ministry says the decision was made by statutory decision-makers, not politicians, and took into account consultation with First Nations and stakeholders.

"During the consultation process, shishálh [Sechelt] Nation expressed opposition to the dock, but no significant impacts to Aboriginal rights were identified," the ministry's statement read.

"There are no set limits imposed by the province or the Sunshine Coast Regional District on the size of private docks. The Wilsons' dock application meets all the other physical requirements as per provincial policy."

CBC News made multiple attempts to contact Chip Wilson but received no reply by deadline.

Hognestad says the dock doesn't sit well with her, but she admits Wilson isn't breaking any rules.

"I think people love to hate Chip Wilson. He just does what he does, and, as far as I'm concerned, he has followed all the rules. He's done this by the book," she said.

"It's not his fault he got approved. It's the whole system; the fact that the Sunshine Coast Regional District does not have dock size regulation and this area is unzoned," said Hognestad.

She expects the noisy construction in front of her property to last about three months before yachts and seaplanes begin mooring there.

With files from Eric Rankin.

Follow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker

About the Author

Rafferty Baker is CBC Vancouver's mobile journalist. Follow him @raffertybaker