Several residents who have trailers parked on their vacation properties on the east side of Last Mountain Lake are being told by the rural municipality they have to move them or pay a fine.
The RM of McKillop posted notices on several trailer doors on July 6, telling owners they would have to remove their trailers by Sept. 3.
Elliott Walters has owned a property in the resort village of MacPheat Park for about three years and was served one of the notices.
In a response from the RM, the current bylaw does not allow the use of a vacation trailer as the principal use on a residential site. A vacation trailer can be considered as an accessory building in the Lakeshore Development District, but are prohibited in the Recreational Resort, Hamlet, and Country Residential districts.
The RM stated the enforcement was not taken in haste and is a part of an effort in recent years to improve enforcement of bylaws and policies.
Walters explained many people in his situation buy their dream vacation property and then park a trailer there until they can afford to build something permanent such as a cabin or home.
Being a carpenter by trade, Walters plans to have a major hand in building his cabin and wants to have his family come out to help him, but said removing the trailer would make that difficult.
“I’d have to be commuting back and forth every day without my family to accomplish a goal, that’s not reasonable,” Walters said.
“Where am I expected to have my one-year-old daughter stay when she has to take naps? Is she supposed to sit in the truck with the air conditioning on?”
He said the RM hasn’t thought about what sort of impact this decision could have on future families who want to move to the area.
“We really think it’s discrimination, it’s unfair, it’s unwarranted and it’s morally wrong. The outcome of this newfound bylaw enforcement is kicking good people out of our community and the RM really needs to reconsider its decision going forward.”
Despite many people voicing concerns and raising questions since the notice was handed out, Walters said they hadn’t received a response from the RM.
A meeting to discuss the bylaw will take place on Friday.
“Just because a family can’t afford to hire a home builder and can’t build a mansion at the lake doesn’t mean they should be evicted from their land and not allowed to build their own place,” Walters said.
The RM conducted a Resort Property Vacation Trailer survey in 2015 about this issue, with 468 surveys being returned. The results of the survey show people support both sides of the argument dependent on if the trailer is a permanent residence or not.
In total, 257 people are against a trailer taking the place of a permanent home and 321 are against having a vacation trailer permitted even if a fee is paid.
But on the flip side, 355 people agree a person can have a vacation trailer on their property for a period of time before construction begins on a permanent residence if the RM council grants them permission. Residents also support people getting permission to have a trailer on their property during the building phase, with 385 voting yes.
The information from the survey was intended for purposes of developing a new zoning bylaw, which is work that is being pursued.
Walters said a lot of people would accept a trade-off to offset the loss of property taxes the RM might be facing due to the land not having a residence built on it.
“We would love a permit system where you could pay X amount of dollars a year to be able to have something to stay in the interim,” Walters said, adding some of the villages in the R.M. have their own ways to deal with the issue.
Petitions, complaints led to increased bylaw enforcement
The RM said their recent bylaw enforcement efforts are a result of a group of rate payers within the area emphasizing shortfalls in administration when it came to bylaws and policies. They received petitions and complaints requesting the council act and improve enforcement.
In response to these complaints, council has directed the bylaws and policies be implemented to the full extent of the RM’s ability.
The RM is also making immediate efforts to address noncompliance issues including nuisance matters, removal of soft-sided sheds or fabric structures which are prohibited from use in the RM, and removing all vacation trailers from all properties in resort communities if the vacation trailer is used as the principal dwelling.
The RM said discussions with the Ministry of Government Relations and Community Planning Branch indicated trailers being used as main homes is a concern throughout the province with municipalities trying to determine the best way to enforce their policy.
The ministry does not have a set policy on the use of vacation trailers on residential lots but recommend the different municipalities enforce their own policies and bylaws.