Eganville -- In an unexpected and brief 10 minutes the RV saga which has dragged on for three and a half to five years, depending on who is doing the calculating, reached a temporary conclusion last week as Bonnechere Valley council passed the controversial and highly polarizing RV by-law.
It was a surprising conclusion since many ratepayers had been anticipating council would be discussing the issue at the April 20th meeting when a mediator was scheduled to bring a recommendation back to council. However, the issue was introduced last week during a committee meeting for discussion and then passed in the evening as a by-law with council unanimously approving the by-law, albeit with the caveat it would most likely be looked at again in the fall when the entire zoning by-law is torn apart.
It was a low-key end to the RV issue which has been front and centre for not only this council but the previous council which was first approached by a resident of Lake Clear asking for the township to restrict the use of RVs around the lake. Last Tuesday evening, as part of a last-minute addition to the agenda, council passed a by-law which not only does not restrict the use of RVs around that lake but allows four per lot if they are actual RVs according to the definition, which states they must not be a permanent structure and must be movable.
Despite the appearance of finality, the issue is far from over, cautioned Mayor Jennifer Murphy who pointed out the township will be reviewing the entire zoning by-law this fall after the County of Renfrew passes the Official Plan Amendment and anything is up for grabs then.
“The issues we have now will probably come back,” she cautioned council during a committee meeting.
In fact, she said it was precisely because it would be coming back to council, she was willing to vote to pass it.
Mayor Murphy explained the county has approved the draft of the Official Plan Amendment and when this is finalized in the coming months it will be time for BV to tackle its own zoning by-law where the RV issue is dealt with. She also pointed out the RV issue did not begin five years ago. The Lake Clear Property Owners Association stated this January in a letter to members the issue was first breached with the township “over five years ago” but the mayor said it began in November 2017 with the first presentation to council.
“In the fall, when we open the entire zoning by-law, it will come back,” she said.
Despite these assertions, and perhaps in part because of them, council decided to pass the by-law that evening with a unanimous agreement. Despite the fact some members of council still have questions, including the issue of lot size, they agreed to pass the by-law and be prepared to look at it again in the fall as part of the whole zoning issue.
“Our zoning by-law is really a disaster and we’ve been trying to clear it up since I was on council the first time,” Councillor Jack Roesner said.
Now that the county is moving forward with the Official Plan Amendment, the township can address the zoning by-law, he said.
“Disaster is the right word,” the mayor agreed. “Our zoning by-law is a disaster.”
This has been an issue since she became mayor 11 years ago, she added. One thing which needs to be cleaned up is allowing secondary dwellings on properties in the township, which falls in line with provincial directives to help people age at home.
“There is so much housekeeping to be done and I assume we will look at this again in the fall,” she said.
BV is not the only municipality in this pickle with their zoning by-law and the county will be working with municipalities to clear them up.
“There are some of us that need to have our entire zoning by-law reopened,” she said. “It’s got to be torn apart basically.”
Councillor Brent Patrick, who had put the RV by-law on the committee meeting agenda, made the motion to have the by-law passed.
Councillor Tim Schison said he was in favour of passing the by-law.
“As far as making rules and regulations on how many vehicles people can have on their property, I’m okay with what we have written,” he said.
Councillor Merv Buckwald said he has received calls from people in favour of the by-law.
“I’m really worried the wording is too loose,” he said, adding he was in favour of passing it that evening.
Coun. Patrick pointed out lots vary in size. He said some building lots are .25 acres.
“I’m comfortable with the by-law as it stands,” he said.
He said he wanted to see it dealt with that evening.
“We’ve already listened to 180 letters,” he said. “At what point are we going to listen to another delegation?”
Council had previously agreed to have a mediator bring further recommendations to council and that was slated to take place next week.
Coun. Roesner said the issue of lot size needed to be dealt with.
“I’m not comfortable with a half acre lot having a house and four RVs,” he added.
“We don’t tell people how many cars they can park in their garage,” countered Coun. Schison.
Coun. Patrick pointed out the RV by-law does clarify the difference between a vehicle and a structure and this was one of the points of contention.
Mayor Murphy cautioned when the zoning by-law is updated council can be ready to receive 500 letters on the topic.
“There is no point delaying it when we know it is coming back within the year,” she said.
Coun. Schison said at that point council could look at it if needed.
“If it needs to change so be it in a year or two,” he said. “I’ve never been so involved in something so in depth for such a long time.”
There have been a lot of different opinions on the issue and council has listened to them, he added.
Mayor Murphy said while she wanted the lot size to be looked at, she was in favour of passing the by-law. “This is coming back to us anyway,” she said.
Coun. Patrick said he was glad to have the by-law passed.
“We’ve talked about it a lot since we have been on council,” he said. “I have received a lot of support for it.”
“We have been at this for many years,” Coun. Buckwald agreed. “Let’s get it done.”
Coun. Schison said he was pleased with the direction council took.
“There is a lot of demand for people’s property rights to be adhered to,” he said, adding many people want the government to back off from their involvement on private property. “I really hope people take a look at this as a step in the right direction.”
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader