Eganville – A public meeting about a proposed zoning amendment allowing four RVs to be used for seasonal accommodation per property showed there is more than a little interest in the topic among Bonnechere Valley residents.
The meeting, which was originally slated to last two hours, lasted three hours and even that was not long enough to read the 171 letters township residents had sent either in favour of allowing RVs or opposing the initiative. As a result, a second public meeting has been called on the issue where the remaining letters will be read, as well as any new letters received on the topic.
Listening to the letters at of the ZOOM meeting, it was clear there was a diversity of opinions, but mostly the viewpoints were divided pretty well down the middle with about half the respondents in favour of the proposed by-law and the other half opposed. The issue had first been spearheaded by the Lake Clear Property Owners Land Use Committee and while most of the letters appeared to have a connection to Lake Clear, there were also letters from residents from other parts of the municipality, since the issue is now a township-wide by-law amendment.
Under the by-law council not only clarified what is classified as an RV but stated an RV could be used for seasonal accommodation and there could be four RVs per lot in the township. The only exception is the village of Eganville.
Following the public meeting, Mayor Jennifer Murphy said it became clear early on there would not be a chance to finish the public meeting last Tuesday because there were so many letters.
“We had allotted two hours for the meeting,” she said. “Normally a public meeting is about 15 minutes or 30 minutes. As the letters came in, it was blatantly obvious we would not get through them all in two hours.”
During the meeting, the mayor proposed extending the meeting for an additional hour to get through as many of the letters as possible. Not only were council members listening to the letters but also those who signed in on ZOOM or those listening on the township YouTube stream.
Staff members read each letter – and some were quite lengthy – and when the three-hour meeting was done there were still over 20 which had not been read. Since then, there have been more letters coming in and council agreed to allow more letters for the second public meeting which will continue to look into the issue.
Mayor Murphy said the next meeting is being done in a timely fashion and also allows for the 20-day notice which is required for a public meeting. As well, the second meeting will allow council deliberation time on what they have heard or read.
“This will give us more time,” she said.
The new meeting is scheduled for March 19 at 10 a.m. and will be a ZOOM meeting like the last one. The meeting is also streamed on YouTube. Not only will the remaining letters be read, but the new letters and then council will have a chance to discuss the issue. Although there was a provision for presentations, Mayor Murphy explained anyone who wrote a letter will not be able to give a presentation.
It is clear the issue is very important to some residents with many heartfelt comments and strongly held opinions on the topic. There were a lot of different opinions expressed on the issue and having an opportunity to listen to all of them will allow council to delve into the issue again, she said.
“As a council we can discuss what we heard,” she said. “There were some constructive letters which gave some compromise positions.”
Some of the factors which might be considered are lot size, frontage and setbacks, she noted.
The issue has been simmering – sometimes more actively than others – for about five years since the original request came to council asking for the municipality to ban RVs around Lake Clear. Since then, it turned into a township-wide by-law issue. The previous council did not make a decision on the issue and this council moved the issue ahead with the by-law amendment. However, there was also some criticism of this council for making a decision during the COVID-19 pandemic when some property owners are not in the area.
The Lake Clear Property Owners reached out to members asking them to submit opinions on the issue and the Golden Lake Property Owners Association also reached out to members about the proposed by-law amendment.
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader