By Chad Ingram
Minden Hills council plans to make changes to the township’s zoning bylaw to allow residents to live in campers and trailers while they have a residence under construction, and, after conducting public consultations, will consider making amendments to the bylaw to allow the use of trailers and RVs for camping on private property.
Councillors discussed the issue during a June 24 online meeting. For years residents have requested changes to township regulations concerning the use of trailers on private property, including a 2019 delegation requesting that camping on private property while visiting family or friends be permitted.
“Recently the township has received a number of inquiries from the public as to the status of any potential amendments to the township’s zoning bylaw or other mechanisms which may be introduced to permit use of RVs and trailers on private property,” reads a report from planning consultant Amanda Dougherty of D.M. Wills Associates Limited. “However, based on our review of available information and communications with the township’s chief administrative officer any undertakings required with respect to the foregoing resolution have remained in preliminary stages only, and thus far no public consultation has occurred. We would recommend continuation of the background review, followed by the preparation of a survey for public consultation in order to gain a more wholesome community-based sense of the issues at hand. An open house may also be appropriate to receive public input. Following which, a draft amendment to the zoning bylaw could be brought forward to public meeting to gain further comments from the public and council. This work plan may also be an appropriate undertaking for the planning and development advisory committee, which we are to understand will soon be reinstated.”
Township advisory committee meetings have been on hold amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with some committees recently beginning to meet again.
It was the recommendation from the township’s planning consultants, with which councillors agreed, to divvy the issue into two; the use of trailers and RVs as temporary residences while a dwelling is being constructed, and their use for recreational camping.
“When I look at the neighbouring municipalities, they have not had this issue because I don’t think that they’re as stringent with the rules as we have been,” said Deputy Mayor Lisa Schell. “They all allow that if you have a building permit that you can actually have your trailer there, I mean, within reason.”
Schell said she appreciated that type of use being separated from recreational use in the zoning bylaw.
“As I look around the municipality, there are several people that are doing this right now, and I haven’t personally had any complaints from members of the public that they’re doing it,” Schell said. “The only complaint I get is the people using the trailers are being told they can’t.”
“I haven’t seen a huge issue with it, I think people are being very respectful with it,” Schell continued. “I know within the other municipalities, one of the mayors, you know, was using their trailer at a friend’s cottage. And I was like, oh, you guys actually get to do that? And she said, yeah, not like permanent, but for a weekend we’re very flexible about that, you just can’t put it there for the whole summer, etc. And I personally don’t see a problem with that.”
Schell added the township already had a very busy bylaw department and that it seemed to be a waste of the department’s time dealing with complaints.
Councillor Bob Carter agreed the issues should be separated.
“I just think it’s a ludicrous rule that exists,” Carter said. “You know, if you have a building permit and you’re going to be building a house you should be able to live in some sort of temporary accommodation on the site while it’s being built.”
With regard to recreational use, Carter said there needed to be extended public consultation.
Councillor Jean Neville said she agreed with Schell.
“I also do not object to somebody putting their trailer on somebody’s property for two or three days and camping out, I don’t see anything wrong with that, whatsoever,” Neville said, adding that any complaints around noise or fireworks could be dealt with through the township’s bylaws on those nuisances. “I don’t see anything wrong with it, whatsoever, so I don’t see why there’s so much controversy over it.”
Councillor Pam Sayne agreed it was ludicrous that residents were not allowed to live in a trailer on a temporary basis while constructing a new residence, and agreed with a wider public consultation in regard to allowing recreational camping. Sayne added that the COVID-9 pandemic had caused housing issues for some, and said that also needed to be considered.
Sayne and Schell said they’d like to see a moratorium on the regulations for the rest of the summer.
“You’ve all said exactly what my sentiments are,” said Mayor Brent Devolin.
Chief administrative officer Trisha McKibbin said a moratorium could be problematic, as it would suspend other aspects of the bylaw that could then cause more issues for the township. McKibbin said an amending bylaw would be required to put a moratorium specifically on enforcement related to trailers. With an additional special meeting and a regular meeting of council at the end of July, she said a moratorium should be able to be put into place at that time. Any amendment to a zoning bylaw has the legal requirement of public meeting.
“We can work as quickly as we can to get an amending bylaw back before council, but, again we’re going to need some specific direction from council,” McKibbin said, adding there were also building code implications and so forth to consider. “I don’t want to overcomplicate things, but it is complicated, basically.”
A public consultation on the use of trailers and RVs for recreational camping is to follow.