Sundridge council is considering bylaws that govern how travel trailers and storage containers are used in the municipality. Jason Newman, Sundridge’s bylaw enforcement officer, raised the matter with council as a means to stay ahead of any potential problems in the future. Newman told council Sundridge has begun seeing quite a bit of development, with new homes going up and existing properties changing hands. This season could be one of the busiest for development in the municipality. Regarding travel trailers, Newman says the issue is people using the trailers, which are normally used for camping or getting to different destinations, as temporary housing while they build a new home. “We don't have any language that speaks to the use of travel trailers used as accommodations while building,” Newman told council. “We've already seen this in the village two times so far this season.” Newman later told The Nugget this practice was pre-pandemic, where many land lots were starting to be developed and people lived in their trailers in the meantime. Newman said while development is good news, the municipality also wants to avoid problems this type of practice could create. “We're not trying to stop how the travel trailers are used, we just want rules in place and have people abide by them,” Newman said. As examples, Newman said many travel trailers are not rated beyond a certain temperature. This raises several questions, like whether people would try to live in a trailer during cold weather and what they would use to heat their trailers. Newman also says the question of sewage needs to be addressed. Mayor Lyle Hall said as he perceived the issue, the goal was to prevent ongoing occupancy of a trailer and then allowing it to become run down. For Hall, using a trailer as temporary living quarters while a home is going up is not a problem. “As long as there are rules and regulations to limit how these trailers are being used, it would be advantageous for ourselves and for the people who are building within the municipality,” Hall said. One obvious advantage is more building activity generates more tax revenue. Newman told council a travel trailer permit would have a time limit. The time limit being considered is one year, but Newman pointed out since trailers are not adequately designed to perform beyond a certain temperature, the permit would include language indicating they can't be occupied before or after certain dates. Newman adds other provisions in the bylaw would include following fire code regulations. A year should be enough time to build a home, but deputy mayor Shawn Jackson asked whether the bylaw would allow for extensions if there were extenuating circumstances, such as a shortage of building materials. Newman used the upcoming renovations to the local medical centre as an example where an extension could be granted. Newman said it's possible all the work might not be finished in a given time frame and the workers would have to come back after winter. In this instance, the permit could be extended. However, Newman added for a regular person who's building a home, “if they're not in their house in 12 months, the trailer may not be the best place to live.” Newman told The Nugget the proposed bylaw could also include language that considers extenuating circumstances, so a travel trailer permit could be extended to help a layperson finish a home the following year. Newman says with construction season quickly approaching, his priority is to get a travel trailer bylaw to council before he starts working on a proposed bylaw for storage containers. Newman told council commercial and industrial businesses have used them for many years on their respective properties. There are more than 40 storage containers spread across the businesses in the municipality, and as far as he knows they are all used for storage. But because of the explosion in development “we're starting to see (storage containers) creeping into residential” areas. Newman says the municipality will examine how other municipalities deal with storage containers before writing its own bylaw. Some obvious language to govern how storage containers are used is making sure they don't affect sight lines, their proximity to a neighbour, making sure road allowances are not obstructed, whether the containers affect property values and how much of a property lot do they cover. With no language at all to govern the use of storage containers, Newman says “there are many questions we need to ask and find answers to, to make sure things are done properly”. Newman told council one of those questions involves how to grandfather existing storage containers into a proposed bylaw. “This is not about bringing fear to the businesses that already have them,” Newman told The Nugget. “The intent of grandfathering is to ensure you're not putting a burden unnecessarily on something that's already existed. If something's been there a long time, and if you come to regulate it, there might be push back.” Newman says when a municipality considers regulations, “it doesn't mean you necessarily want to stop something, rather you want to ensure it's done properly and safely and that all parties are protected.” Newman says another issue on storage containers is coping with language under the Ontario Building Code. He told council it's his understanding under the code that anything over 100 square feet is considered a structure and, as such, requires a permit. “We haven't been following that practice and a lot of municipalities never follow that practice, Newman told council. “But that is something we need to start looking at.” Newman said the issue of needing a permit under the building code for a storage container is one where consultation is needed. He added “if this is a process that's supposed to be there, we need to explore it and you need to ensure the village isn't liable” and that residents and ratepayers are protected. Newman said at this time there is no deadline on when to bring a storage container bylaw before council for its consideration. Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Bay Nugget