Meeting held August 15, 2023
Council received a petition initiated by Terence Jacobson, questioning why the Kipling landfill was open only on Wednesdays of July and August, and suggesting that the landfill would better serve the area if it was open from May to September. Council decided this was a budgetary issue and would be addressed during the next budget deliberations.
Sandy Island road allowance
Numerous landowners on Sandy Island wrote council letters objecting to the proposed transfer of the road allowance on Sandy Island in Lake Nipissing to proponents Rheal Marleau and Delta Clarke, who submitted a claim to council that the lands in question had been erroneously registered to the municipality by the Lands Registry Office during their digitization process. Islanders claimed that the road allowance has been in common usage for years by residents to traverse the island and there was no error. Further investigation revealed that the lands were dedicated as municipal road allowance in 1921, and were important not only as a local laneway and lake access for some residents, but necessary for fire and emergency services. The road allowance transfer was denied.
Before a final bylaw regulating camping trailers in West Nipissing is drafted and reviewed, one further public consultation will be held. This matter will be determined by this council as the matter was not conclusively determined by the previous council that conducted six public sessions in 2019, some of them contentious, followed by a report in 2020 and debated through 2021. Licensing and registration were dismissed at the time, although administrative staff advised that without licensing and registration, enforcing any regulation would be futile.
CAO Barbeau advised that the common thread which united all the interested parties was environmental protection against the dumping of wastewater and sewage effluent near any waterways. Also of concern were add-on structures to stationary trailers that do not meet code. In some areas, residents decried the proliferation of unregulated and multiple camping trailers on private lots as not only unsightly but as reducing property values, safety and water quality and creating septic effluent, noise and litter. Barbeau presented the opposing views by residents as one contingent claiming, “We’ve always been doing this” and it was an inherent right. Barbeau told council the matter would continue to create land use conflicts unless addressed, that the town now had bylaw enforcement in place, and any licensing/registration fees would finance enforcement.
Councillors were in general agreement that some form of regulation was needed, although also expressing caution on taking a position that would anger constituents. Coun. Kris Rivard said, “I do believe we need some sort of regulation in place, but there’s no way it’s going to please everyone… We have to make sure that it’s enforceable by our bylaw officer,” as well as building officials and the North Bay Mattawa Conservation Authority. He also cautioned that some trailers are “dry”, without water, and have no environmental impact. Rivard added that he thought trailers should have the same setback guidelines as dwellings. “We’ve all seen it in some areas when the water gets high, some of those trailers end up either really close or underwater, or floating,” he noted.
As for the esthetics, it was also suggested that some properties have too many trailers, so maximum numbers should be considered, depending on zoning. Also for consideration was the difference in the cost of constructing a cottage as opposed to installing a trailer. “So there’s those two sides… it’s very difficult, but other municipalities have already done the hard work.”
Council also wanted to look at the fact that commercial operators had to comply with environmental regulations and enforcement, while similar encampments on private land with multiple trailers were not subject to either the taxes or the enforcement. Coun. Jérôme Courchesne said, “Compliance with environmental regulation is not optional. I want to be able to enjoy the lake for the next few years and you know, when I do have children, that they can enjoy it past mid-July,” citing blue-green algae blooms in the West Arm of Lake Nipissing.
Mayor Kathleen Thorne Rochon concurred, adding that while commercial operators pay attendant taxes, pop up trailers on private land are paying “vacant land tax rates” with anywhere from 3 to 8 trailers, “which is hardly anything and it’s not money that supports the provision of services” when vacant land is understood to be land not in use. Meanwhile, “they are using the roads, they’re using the landfills and they’d like the firefighters to show up if they start a grease fire… We owe it to our commercial tourist operators who are following the rules and are paying the extra costs associated with running these types of establishments that there is some kind of equity.”
It was generally agreed that despite the contentious nature of the subject, the town would hold one more open meeting, likely in Verner, with a report to be drafted of “some sort of compromise solution” with regard to setbacks, effluent issues, grandfathered trailers, and general esthetics within 3 to 4 months, as the “Wild West” approach to trailers can no longer be sustained. “Not everybody’s going to be happy on either extreme,” agreed CAO Barbeau, adding that “Nobody wants to have or swim or utilize fresh water that may be contaminated with [effluent].”
Cache Bay rink tender way over budget
The tender for repairing the Cache Bay rink came in at $315K, $177K over the budget of $137K, more than double the approved amount. It was decided that some light repairs would be undertaken this year, and the matter would go to 2024 to decide on the scope of work and obtain further quotes at reasonable cost. It was also suggested that local fund raising might help, as well as utilizing local volunteers to dismantle some of the structures in early 2024 to pave the way for repairs and reduce the construction costs. Optimally, residents would like to maintain the double rink in order to facilitate different user groups but, depending on costs, the outdoor community rink in Cache Bay may end up the same as other communities such as Lavigne and River Valley – a single outdoor rink.