A Penetanguishene resident and artist is considering leaving town owing partly to rules around him displaying his artwork on his front yard for visitors.
It all started about six years ago when Jim Duguay was forced to retire early after receiving a diagnosis of lupus, diabetes and arthritis. He refused to spend his retirement vegging out in front of the TV.
"I started doing some projects for the house and then I started doing some furniture and art on the walls," said Duguay, who lives on the corner of Maria and Jeffery Streets.
"Friends saw it and they told two friends and the word spread. We were invited to two shows, even at the little market at the Keewatin. We got some exposure and some sales. Once that happened, people suggested that we need to set up a site on Facebook."
From his little cottage industry, Duguay said he makes about $2,000 a year.
"It pays the extras," he said, adding the money is nothing compared to the hundreds of hours spent working on the pieces.
And everything was going well until last year.
"I had parked my stuff on the Maria Street side of our property," said Duguay, explaining it was on the patch of grass outside the fence that surrounds the house. "It was back from the road and the hydrant because the bylaw officer came out and told us so. Late August, I was out back here working on something and a young fella came by and without any written notice, he told us, 'You have to take this junk off your lawn or the town is going to take it away.'"
He said he tried to ask the officer more questions, but claims he failed to get a straight answer.
"We brought our stuff back inside the fence," said Duguay. "Then we tried to get hold of the bylaw officer at the town. We were sent to the planning department and talked to Andrea Betty and all she did was hand us an envelope with paperwork."
He said the paperwork had nothing to do with the bylaw but was applications to apply for a business permit and to request a change to the bylaw.
"I found it very disrespectful the way it was handled," said Duguay, who noted that he just wants to know what the rules are so he is displaying his product on the front yard correctly and not offending anybody.
"If this is your job, then tell me what I can and can't do," said Duguay. "Send me some paperwork that explains the bylaw."
Betty, director of planning and community development, said she wouldn't speak to specific cases but gave general information around the zoning bylaw that dictates Duguay's situation.
"First off, a lot of times people have a feeling they own right to the road," she said. "Municipal land and road allowance is a lot wider than people know. We would need to survey each property to determine that. Generaly, the road is supposed to be 30 metres wide, then you have potentially 10 metres of boulevard. Fences aren't good indicators of property lines."
The town has some very clear rules around what can go on municipal property, said Betty.
"There are rules around what you can put on municipal property: you can't put anything," she noted. "You can't even plant trees on the municipal boulevard."
The town does have a bylaw that allows property owners to display retail goods, added Betty, but it's specific to the downtown area.
But residents can request zoning bylaw amendments to allow for retail sales as a home occupation, she said, indicating a similar application was received for a Peel St. house at a recent council meeting.
The residents are requesting a site-specific exception to permit retail sales under the home occupation category.
The town's zoning bylaw defines a home occupation as any occupation that is carried out at a single detached dwelling in accordance with the provisions of the bylaw.
"There's permission for people to build and craft stuff at home," said Betty. "There are rules around how much of the land use can go towards that and how they can display it. The home occupation has to be confined to a building or an accessory building."
The document goes on to talk in great detail about the number of occupations that can be initiated inside a residence as well as information about staff, parking, appearance of the dwelling and impact on the neighbourhood.
It does specify that only goods, wares or merchandise that are made or crafted within the dwelling may be offered for sale, and it adds that, "A home occupation use shall be confined to the dwelling on the lot on which it is located, except for a fenced outdoor yard for private home daycare facilities."
However, the document is unclear on where the goods for sale can be displayed.
But there may be clarity coming, said Betty.
"We're reviewing our zoning bylaw," she said. 'Our bylaw is from the year 2000 and it doesn't contemplate online shpping and home occupations very well."
Duguay said he wasn't sure if he wanted to take up a fight with the town and apply for a zoning amendment.
"We were told it's going to take several years, probably decades, and thousands of dollars for you to deal with the town," he said.
Betty said otherwise.
"(Zoning amendment) depends on the complexity of the bylaw," she said. "(It) generally (takes) four to six months if it's straighforward or it can take a year or longer if it's complicated."
Duguay said he feels left out because of the way the zoning bylaw is currently interpreted.
"I'm not a shop that's open and employs several people," he said. "I'm just a simple guy repurposing some stuff. It's keeping me occupied and the town is just impossible to work with. There seems to be very little conversation with the town and what we've gotten is so crossed that no one seems to know whose job it is."
Instead, Duguay said, the town should encourage such activity.
"There are some very talented people," he said. "From a taxpayers' point of view, you want to draw people in."
Betty said she could see Duguay's point, but the bylaw rule is the rule and officers have to enforce it until it's changed.
Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com