People who live on boats year-round fighting eviction from Hamilton bay

About 24 people who live on boats year-round want to stay on Macassa Bay, but are facing eviction now that the marina where they live is being sold. They want the city to help.

Macassa Bay Liveaboards Association wants the city to let members stay for at least the winter

There are 24 "liveaboards" at MacDonald Marine on Macassa Bay. They want the city to at least give them the winter to figure out their future now that the marine is closing. (Google Maps)

Glenn Wise has lived on a boat for 30 years, and he has no interest in living on land again. 

He hosts family and friends on his boat. He raised three kids on his boat. When he looks out his window, he says, he gets an eyeful of nature no highrise will ever block.

"It's much better," said Wise, who's known as a liveaboard. "I have all the pleasures of nature around me. A magnificent view … It's a uniquely different lifestyle."

Wise and about 23 other year-round boat inhabitants face eviction now that the marina where they live, MacDonald Marine, is closing. The lease between the marina and the city is up, and Hamilton wants to clear space to redevelop the west harbour.

Wise and the Macassa Bay Liveaboards Association want the city to let them stay for at least the winter. They need time to find alternative living arrangements, Wise said. Ideally, that will be another permanent slip in Hamilton.

Liveaboards Ken Lackey, Glenn Wise and Mark Palmer say they're long-time Hamilton residents who want to stay in the harbour. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

City council's planning committee voted Tuesday to negotiate with the liveaboards. Also, city staff aren't sure how planning rules apply to something that's not on land. It's "jurisdictionally complicated," said planning manager Jason Thorne. So staff will investigate and report back next month.

Macassa Bay's year-round boat dwellers are ordinary Hamiltonians, said lawyer Raymond Di Gregorio, who represents the association. They work for construction companies, rail companies, and the city. 

"These are regular folk," he said. "These are people who have contributed to the community over the years. They just have a different living arrangement."

Matthew Green, Ward 3 councillor, voted to negotiate. But the situation seems unfair, he said.

People living in illegal storefronts on Barton Street, for example, are displaced by city rules all the time. And they don't get the winter to work it out.

Cameron Ritchie, a Hamilton firefighter, stands in front of his sailboat at the docks of the Royal Hamilton Yacht Club in 2014. "Liveaboards" want the city to let them stay, even though a marina that houses them is closing. (Sola DaSilva)

"They are often displaced without any consideration, without any input, without any special permit," he said. "Why do we give different consideration to folks living at our yacht club than we do to folks living in settlements throughout the city?"

Ken Lackey has lived on the bay for years. Tuesday's vote, he said, is "a step forward. There's a lot more to discuss because I don't think they're fully aware."

Wise said it doesn't matter where their new space to dock is, "as long as we're still in our community.

"Our families are here. We work here. We've lived here for a long time. All we want is a home in the harbour."

Hamilton city council will vote Friday whether to ratify the decision.

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      About the Author

      Samantha Craggs

      Reporter

      Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca

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