New trailer bylaws coming to cottage country communities in Ontario, raising concerns

Close-up of a metal sign that says "Trailer Parking Prohibited". Photo by Shutterstock/Colin Temple

A town in Northern Ontario is preparing to enact a new bylaw that will charge residents $700 per year for parking their trailer on vacant land. This has come as shocking news to some locals as well as trailer-owning cottagers. 

Thanks to the pandemic and the flight from urban centres, Ontario’s cottage country has ballooned with an influx of new residents. As a result, the demand for waterfront properties has risen and the borders of cottage country have expanded, causing towns in these areas to seek new ways to regulate both visitors and residents. Trailers are increasingly becoming a more popular and affordable way for new residents to enjoy cottage country, but they have become the target for new legislation in a number of communities. 

The Township of Sables-Spanish Rivers, which is located on the north shore of Lake Huron between Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie, hosted a public meeting in April to discuss the proposed bylaw. The meeting quickly turned contentious when Mayor Kevin Burke brought forth the idea to council, with some members of the public claiming that the decision is unfair and unconstitutional. 

The new bylaw would require trailer owners to apply for a permit and pay a $500 initial fee. Thereafter, owners would be charged $700 annually to keep their trailers parked on vacant land, even if they own that property. In addition, only one trailer is allowed to be parked on an area of land that must be at least 2.5 acres in size. This is considered a necessary step to spur development in the township by keeping spaces clear for housing and other infrastructure sites, such as roads, community services, and hospitals.    

Current bylaws in Sables-Spanish Rivers actually ban trailers from being on vacant land, but these laws are ignored and not enforced. The new bylaw aims to create more practical and actionable legislation that will be actively enforced. Part of the push to regulate trailers in the area is the need for more revenue to pay for road maintenance, emergency services, and expanding infrastructure. If townships like Sables-Spanish Rivers want to grow, so too do the tax bases. 

Other communities have enacted similar legislation, such as the municipality of French River. French River continues to ban trailers parked on vacant land and limits home owners to one trailer per home. Trailers must also carry a valid permit, which costs $400 to obtain, and pass an inspection regarding septic systems and waste disposal. In French River, concerns have focused less on taxation and development and more on the environmental impacts of trailers and instances of illegally dumping waste into local lakes.

Residents in both Sables-Spanish Rivers and French River have expressed their concern and dismay over the legislation, with many expressing their grievances during public and town hall meetings in these communities. But despite negative public reaction, the bylaw is expected to pass in Sables-Spanish Rivers, and French River already introduced this bylaw in 2021. The bylaw in French River has been appealed to the Ontario Land Tribunal, where a decision is pending.

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