Residents of Sask. trailer park face imminent eviction, many without plans
Residents have until Aug. 1, 2019, to remove all of their belongings, including mobile homes, off land
Edna Ratt and her family saved for years to buy a home in the North Bay Trailer Park.
She said North Bay was a safe environment for her grandchildren and there was a strong sense of community.
Now Ratt, her family and other residents of the trailer park, which is just outside Prince Albert, have been informed they must move out by Aug. 1, 2019.
She said her trailer is too old to move and, even if it wasn't, she doesn't have the money to move it.
"I've got no place to go," Ratt said.
The sewage lagoon that serves North Bay's roughly 100 residents is too small and too close to both the park and some homes in the Rural Municipality of Buckland, according to the Water Security Agency (WSA).
Many residents have left already. Those who remain are scrambling to find new living solutions.
'I am done': Owner blasts RM in eviction notice
The park's lagoon is eight times too small, according to the WSA.
WSA spokesperson Patrick Boyle said there are also concerns the lagoon could be leaking into the ground. He said the agency will test the lands around the lagoon for contamination.
The trailer park's owner, Prince George, B.C.-based James Wankel, wrote in an eviction notice sent to residents that he's done everything he could in the last three years he's owned the trailer park, including investing "hundreds of thousands of dollars."
"I have never had the door slammed in my face so harshly, I believe your local economic woes are your local government's own doing," Wankel said. "I look forward to never investing in this province again."
Wankel's letter said he isn't planning to sue the RM.
"I am done — I have spent enough. It's my genuine regret that I could not save your homes, and clearly your government does not believe in affordable housing," it said.
Wankel did not respond to requests for comment.
The trailer park is listed for sale for roughly $1.2 million dollars. Don Fyrk, the RM's reeve, said he hasn't heard what will happen to the land should it sell.
Attempts to connect North Bay to Prince Albert's sewage line were shot down by the city.
Rural Municipality voted no to proposed lagoon project
Things were looking up for North Bay residents last fall when talks about building a new lagoon came to light.
Fyrk, the reeve, said public meetings about the plans got "hot and heavy." People raised concerns about potential contamination and bad smells coming from the new lagoon.
The current lagoon sits about 100 metres away from a home in the RM. Fyrk said he's had conversations with that property's owner and was told there were only issues with the smell during the spring melt.
"I live a half a mile from [the lagoon] and I've never smelled it. You don't even know it's there," Fyrk said.
The RM council voted 4-3 against the proposal for a new lagoon.
Fyrk said the RM does not intervene in business matters.
"I don't like being responsible for uprooting a bunch of people, and well, I'm not really responsible, but it's a council decision," Fyrk said.
Moving not a realistic option for all residents
At the start of June, North Bay residents received a letter stating they had until Aug. 1, 2019, to remove their trailers and all other possessions from their lots.
Talon Grey has lived in North Bay for about five years. He said it's affordable for his family and paying between $1,000 and $1,500 for rent per month in the city isn't feasible.
He said that, even before the eviction letters, his family was hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.
"Money talks," Grey said. "I don't think there was a way to save this place and that's just the way it is."
Grey said his family was lucky enough to find an open spot at another trailer park in Prince Albert, but there isn't enough time to save everything that currently sits on their property at North Bay.
Grey estimated it will cost between $2,500 and $3,000 to move the trailer alone.
He said he's most concerned for older residents who are on fixed incomes.
"They just can't pick up and vacate the premises like everybody else," he said.
Dave Anderson, who lives across the road from Grey, was preparing to tow his trailer out of the park last week.
Anderson, who has lived there six years, said the lagoon was built before any of the nearby homes in the RM and questioned why residents didn't raise concerns before the situation got out of hand.
Not everyone found new homes as easily as Anderson and Grey.
Veeda Beaudrault and her partner Lance Pilon have two daughters and no idea what to do when the Aug. 1 deadline hits.
"I live paycheque-to-paycheque so I can't just save money," Beaudrault said.
She said she has no plans to move.
"I don't really know what we're going to do," Beaudrault said.
She questioned the legality of what the park owner is doing, particularly a plan to cut off utilities to residents after the Aug. 1 deadline.
A SaskPower spokesperson said depending on the situation, the landowner could have the power to turn off services if the account is in his name. If the accounts are held by individual customers, he could not turn off the power.
Some residents consider legal avenues
Beaudrault said she's hopes the Office of Residential Tenancies will hear the case.
"There was more than 10 of us who disputed the notice." Beaudrault said.
She is also exploring the possibility of a class action lawsuit with other residents to help with moving-related costs. She said other provinces have protections for residents of trailer parks.
The Ministry of Justice confirmed that landlords are not required to compensate tenants after serving a notice to end tenancy. It said the Office of Residential Tenancies had expedited the hearing process for North Bay residents.
"If a tenant files a breach of tenant rights application, it is within the discretion of the hearing officer to award damages including for moving expenses, depending upon the circumstances," the ministry said.
A spokesperson for the government of Saskatchewan said jurisdictions have the right to make their own decisions without oversight from the province.
An emailed statement encouraged people who need help with basic needs to call the ministry of social services.
"Saskatchewan Housing Corporation also has social housing options available in Prince Albert."