Ontario municipalities introduce travel trailer licensing fee

travel trailer Photo by RVLIKEMIDGLEY/Shutterstock

Spending summer in a trailer has become a more affordable retreat for many people in Ontario’s cottage country. But as trailers grow in popularity, municipalities are looking for a way to regulate their use.

“We’re trying to find a balance between allowing trailer use and protecting the environment, and not over stressing our services by adding a ton more occupancy during the summer,” says Andrea Tarini, the chief building official for the Municipality of French River.

On June 17, a report was presented to French River’s council, proposing the introduction of a trailer licence bylaw. This would require anyone staying in a trailer on a residential waterfront lot for longer than 14 days to purchase a licence.

The municipality has been mulling this bylaw over for the last four years, Tarini says. In the past, French River has encountered issues with trailers, such as people parking them in areas that aren’t zoned and septic tanks being dumped into the lakes.

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Rather than banning trailers outright, Tarini says the municipality is trying to strike a balance, one that actually benefits trailer users. If the bylaw is passed, trailers will be allowed to legally park on residential lots for the summer—as long as they buy a licence. Previously, people were only allowed to live in trailers on waterfront commercial tourist lots, such as trailer parks.

Plus, the licence will only be required if you are staying on the lot for more than 14 days. “We have made allowances for the people who just want to come up for the week and visit grandma and grandpa,” Tarini says, “which we felt was the majority of users who would be complaining that they couldn’t come up.”

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She makes it clear, though, that people staying for less than 14 days are still held accountable to municipal bylaws. “We still will make sure that they know they can’t dump their septic, and that they can’t be loud and annoying. They still have to follow all of the other provisions.”

Before the licensing can come into effect, there are still a couple of steps that need to happen. French River will have to amend its zoning bylaw to allow trailers on residential lots and then pass the licencing bylaw.

Currently, there is no confirmed price on the trailer licence, but the June 17 report did propose $200 per year. However, after realizing that this was lower than other municipalities, the recommendation was bumped up to $400 per year.

A trailer licence bylaw has been in place in some municipalities for two to three years now. The Township of Strong, for instance, started charging $500 per year in 2017 and now charges $1,000 per year. The Township of Armour started charging $500 in 2017 and has now raised it to $545.

When asked why Armour passed their trailer licence bylaw, Clerk-Treasurer John Theriault says: “We were having a lot of people that were basically using trailers as cottages and on empty properties.” This meant people using a trailer did not have to pay taxes on their accommodations the way a cottager would. “The trailer licence sort of compensates for the taxes that everybody else is paying.”

Armour, however, caps its licence purchases at five years. “The whole idea behind the bylaw was that people would try cottage life and if they liked it then they would build a cottage,” Theriault says. Not to mention, “It doesn’t look good to have just a trailer on an empty property.”

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