Billings unanimously passes new trailer bylaw

Billings’ proposed trailer fees bylaw has drawn criticism from some councillors and ratepayers who worry the legislation may result in too many restrictions for property owners in the township. Shutterstock

KAGAWONG – Billings Township council has given its unanimous support to third reading of a bylaw to regulate the use of recreational trailer/vehicles outside of tent and trailer parks, noting that the new bylaw is much less restrictive than the one that the bylaw replaced. This comes despite recent concerns raised by at least a couple of local residents.

“We have spent a considerable time on this bylaw,” stated Billings Mayor Ian Anderson at a council meeting last week. “We have received a fair bit of input from the public, some constructive, and from some who want nothing to do with it and don’t want us to pass a bylaw at all.” 

“We have a current trailer bylaw which is more restrictive,” said Mayor Anderson. “This new bylaw will create an opportunity for trailer use under scenarios that, currently, would not be in compliance with the former bylaw.” He cautioned, “no bylaw is etched in stone and if this new one is problematic, we will go back to the drawing board.”

Mayor Anderson noted council had received two letters from members of the public, one from Roger Chenard and a second from Bob Ellen. “I personally responded with a reply to Mr. Chenard’s letter, which generated a second letter that I also responded to. He had some points to consider and does not agree with much of what we are planning. We appreciate his input.”

Mr. Chenard, in his letter, stated in part, “I feel terrible that council is proposing this bylaw that will be affecting the residents and seasonal residents in Billings Township.  Following a few conversations on this subject with many of my friends, my family members, residents and seasonal residents as well as visitors to our township, I am first of all embarrassed as a resident of this township that I would have to give notice to my family members including my kids and my grandkids, and my close friends that our township is implementing  a user fee, for a lack of a better word, to charge anyone who  will be visiting here on my personal property in their personal recreational RV/trailer in the sum of $200 to $250.”

“This now means that I would have to pay that fee, or I will have to collect or charge them a fee, reimbursable to the Township of Billings, for them to stay and park their RV trailer on my private property; especially property which I own and pay taxes on. That is, if they wish to stay longer than the more than 14 days up to 30 days suggested. Sounds like our township is desperate, to me.”

“This venture on the part of this township certainly appears to be nothing but another form of a money grab as well as discouraging any of their residents or seasonal residents from having any company that wishes to visit with them for an extended period beyond the suggested 14 days up to 30 days or so,” continued Mr. Chenard. 

“Bad enough that this would also hurt the smaller businesses of this municipality, let alone give our native Island a bad name as part of their welcoming statements, especially to possible future developers, residents and certainly many of the tourists who want to come and visit the Island. Many often end up acquiring land here following their extended visits,” continued Mr. Chenard.

“I see no other advantages for the township to implement such a policy other than to collect additional funds, upset their residents and seasonal residents, and further discourage and restrict the many relationships with family members or friends of the existing residents and seasonal residents who have made the Township of Billings their home and/or their summer residences,” wrote Mr. Chenard.

Property owners, “should be able to have anyone visit at the permission of the landowners for the parking of their RV/trailer for any length of time agreed upon by the property owner and not for the municipality to dictate or control,” wrote Mr. Chenard.

A letter had also been submitted by Robert Ellen to council which reads, in part, “as a seasonal resident for the past 35 years, I am writing in response to the proposed trailer bylaw. I am concerned that these proposed changes are a negative response to a problem that few taxpayers of Billing Township perceive. If the goal of council is to raise tax funds, then an increase to the tax levy is the answer, not a series of permits and penalties applied to property taxpayers. A properly taxed property should allow the owner to decide how long a family member or friends stay on their property. It should not be the decision of any member of council to decide that one night, 14 nights, or any other number is acceptable.” 

“However, if the goal of council is to limit or restrict trailer usage (although I am not sure why this should be) council should introduce a premium tax levy on these properties as an incentive to build,” continued Mr. Ellen.  “All septic, electrical etc., regulations would, of course, need to be followed. With many families holidaying by trailer under these trying COVID times, it is not the time to be setting penalties on your taxpayers.”

The bylaw motion for third and final reading was put forward by councillor Bryan Barker and seconded by councillor Sharon Alkenbrack. 

“I can’t say much more than the mayor did,” said Councillor Barker. “Council has done its due diligence and took into consideration the community concerns. With this bylaw, the current bylaw has now been brought up to standards and is far less prohibitive than the previous bylaw. But if we find this bylaw is not working, we can make some changes to it.”  

“I agree with everything the mayor and Councillor Barker said,” said Councillor Alkenbrack. “The bylaw may not be perfect, but we need to move forward.”

“I agree everything that has been said. There will probably be changes made or things added on to the bylaw as time goes by,” said Councillor Michael Hunt. 

Councillor Sharon Jackson said, “I don’t have anything to add. I am encouraged by all the input that everyone has provided. I support the changes that have been made.” 

Mayor Anderson noted that “I had struggled with this for some time. Sometimes we make decisions as  a council that we might not all agree with. I am content with most things in the bylaw, although I would like to change a few things. I’m in favour of the bylaw.

Council passed a motion to give third reading to the bylaw, unanimously.