The 18 remaining property owners in Hiawatha Mobile Home Park in Kelowna are "angry, stressed and afraid" in their own homes on Lakeshore Road as a proposed development threatens to force them out.
At 6 p.m. on Tuesday, city council will hold a public hearing on Westcorp on the Lake Inc.'s plan to built 393 hotel or apartment hotel units, 317 apartments, 204 townhouse units, and 50,000 square feet of retail and conference space.
"We bought into a quiet, serene seniors' park where everybody knew everybody. We now live in a low-income rental park that is infested by cats and dogs, and people we don't know," said Sandy Campbell, head of the Hiawatha Owners' Group, on Friday.
Only 18 homeowners are left after Westcorp bought out the other 76, then rented out their mobile homes.
When Campbell forgot to turn off her sprinklers one night, her new neighbour "stomped up to the front door, banged on the door, rang my bell, yelled, screamed and swore at me. When he left, I did not feel safe in my home anymore," said Campbell.
"When Westcorp first made their presentation in 2008, people were afraid. Westcorp told us then: 'You're going to be getting a one-year notice really soon because we expect the rezoning to be done within this calendar year.' So people said: 'I can't handle the stress; I'm getting out.'"
Those property owners went to Westcorp, which indicated there was a set purchase price, take it or leave it, no negotiation, and those who accepted "did not leave happy," she claimed.
The policy on no pets was changed without consulting the property owners, Campbell added. In 2008, Westcorp promised to abide by a city rezoning policy, which says rezoning will not be considered until a viable relocation plan is in place, she noted.
"It is really Westcorp's responsibility to show that they have dealt honourably with people in the park. What's viable for me may not be viable for somebody else. Westcorp is supposed to be approaching us to discuss our needs and deal with a relocation plan, but the only people Westcorp has talked to are the people who chose to leave."
Westcorp officials met with the homeowners' group in 2010, presented a discussion paper and dropped off copies at unsold homes, Campbell said.
"The committee still had questions, still had things that they were not happy with, and it was never discussed with the homeowners specifically."
In other communities, a developer is required to approach mobile-home owners and ask about their individual needs so he can tell that city council about meeting their needs, she said.
"Our developer basically went to city council, said: 'We've done it; here's the policy.' I've never talked with anybody from Westcorp about that policy."
The Hiawatha committee received legal advice to go to city hall for clarification of the rezoning policy. Campbell met with Mayor Walter Gray in April and June 2012.
"At the end of both meetings, I requested that Mayor Gray discuss this policy with city council, and then let us know how they plan to interpret and implement it in our case. He said he would do that."
After those meetings, Campbell believed Gray or someone from council would honour her request for clarification before the rezoning process began.
On March 12, she sent an email to Gray, with a copy to other city councillors, detailing the 2012 meetings, her requests regarding the policy and expressing her disappointment at not being contacted before the rezoning process began.
"I also requested another meeting with Mayor Gray and two councillors this week at a time that was suitable for them. More than one week later, I have had no response from Mayor Gray. Three out of eight councillors have connected with me.
"I believe my efforts have been honourable and that they deserve a response."
The remaining Hiawatha owners will make presentations at the public hearing, she said.
"We are fighting for our financial survival in our retirement years. This is a really big thing for us. We are counting on our city council to honour the intent of the policy and to ensure that we are treated fairly."
Westcorp said it has been able to deal with most of the homeowners successfully.
"We are proud of the way the relocation has been handled over the last five years," Gail Temple, director of development for Westcorp Properties, told The Okanagan Saturday after council gave preliminary approval to the company's plans.
"And while the development process has certainly been much longer than we would have anticipated, the silver lining in the longer time frame is that 80 per cent of Hiawatha homeowners (so far) have been able to move on according to their own timeline, not ours."