|Today's date: Friday May 24, 2013||Vol 46 Issue 21|
We Cover The County...
Puslinch Lake resident concerned about neighbours operating a 'motel'
by Mike Robinson
Beverley Nykamp is not against people relaxing and having a good time, but it should not be in the middle of a residential neighbourhood.
Nykamp firmly believes a commercial enterprise should be in a commercial area - not in the middle of an estate residential area. She was at council May 2, seeking resolution to what she contends to be bylaw enforcement concerns.
Her concern is in the area of Puslinch Lake. Nykamp said she has been a resident of Puslinch for the past 20 years.
She said, “Our house is valued at roughly $700,000, our neighbour has a value of about $1.5 million and our other neighbour’s home is about $750,000.”
In between is a cottage that was sold about five years ago.
The people who bought it indicated their plans to tear it down and to build a primary residence. “However, they have not sold their old residence - primarily because it is not listed.”
Nykamp said the area where those homes are is zoned as resort residential. She said in the resort residential zoning, permitted uses include a single detached dwelling and a home occupation.
She contends the township bylaws stipulate home occupations are accessory to the use of residential dwelling by the owner or tenant as the principle residence.
“My problem has been that this cottage next to us is 1,000 square feet and for the past five years, rented out on a weekly basis during the summer months to different people.”
As a result, tourists and a variety of people are coming in every week for their holidays. “And they start partying when they arrive.”
She said weekly tenants host daily or weekly parties and encourage friends and family to come and visit.
“This is a 1,000 square foot cottage which sleeps eight, has three bedrooms, but due to its small size and the number of tenants, the people who come in will bring tents and trailers and will stay for the weekend or the week.”
To make matters worse, she said the cottage rental is between $1,800 to $2,000 per week, so what happens is two to three families get together and split the cost. She estimated that there can be up to 30 people on the site at any given time.
“I need not reiterate about the noise levels ... and the partying, and the drinking.”
On a more serious note, Nykamp added that on several occasions strangers have appeared unannounced in her back yard.
“Not only is it unnerving because I am not expecting them, I feel I’ve lost the right to expect privacy in my back yard.”
She expressed concern for her safety because “Quite often the party goers have had far too much alcohol. Quite frankly, they’re drunk.”
Nykamp said she has spoken to the property owners over the years about the excessive noise and the number of people staying over night.
She said if there is a problem with noise, they approach the neighbours asking them to keep the noise down - or to call the police. “It was made very clear that we were on our own to deal with this.”
While there is a two-car limit, those cars are accompanied by four or five other cars, trailers and tents.
“While I can appreciate their desire to earn as much money as possible and the $1,800 to $2,000 per week is significant. It comes at the expense of privacy in our area, and the enjoyment of my quality of life.”
She said over the past five years she has tried to make allowances, and realized the rental money probably outweighs any potential fines.
“This is our home, and during the summer months we effectively have an operating motel running next door with different people on a weekly basis.”
Nykamp offered concerns over potential fire hazards, and questioned the capability of the septic system to handle that number of people on site. That septic system is 100 feet from Puslinch Lake.
She wondered if the property owners pay taxes for use as a business or as a private home and said the property is being used as highway commercial zoning. She asked council to enforce its bylaws in that the property is zoned residential.
A bylaw is non-functional if it is not upheld, Nykamp said.
Councillor Jerry Schmidt was sympathetic. He said it appears there are issues with occupancy and bylaw infractions. “It appears to be the owner may very well be taking advantage of a situation where the bylaw is not effective, or should be made to have some teeth.”
Schmidt recommended the issue be sent to the township solicitor to get legal options and ideas how to ward off similar situations.
Chief building official Robert Kelly said he had already spoken to legal council.
Two points brought up at that time were that under the provincial statutes, the municipality has six months to act on a complaint. During that time, if there is a winter tenant where the building is rented on a seasonal basis, it is completely legal.
The legal advice was to bring the matter forward in the spring.
Plus, Kelly said some of the definitions in the zoning bylaw are not very clear, making conviction that much harder.
Councillor Wayne Stokley added he would like to see something happen, but is unsure what approach could be taken. He asked if the tents and trailers brought to the site could be addressed.
Kelly said the tent and trailers is new information to him. He said they would not be allowed in that zone and charges could be laid on that basis.
Stokley said if the property presents a fire hazard, he asked if the house needs to be inspected to determine if it is up to code.
In regard to septic issues, Kelly stated the design is based on the number of bedrooms.
“However, there is no correlation between the design of the septic system and the end use of the property.”
Councillor Susan Fielding said council might need to seek more legal options to deal with this.
Nykamp asked how it would fit into a home occupation when it is not a principle residence. Kelly said it is definitely not a home occupation.
Mayor Dennis Lever said there are a number of issues to be addressed.
“Clearly we have to meet with our legal counsel to determine the best way, or which way we are permitted to deal with this.”
He understood the concerns with the definitions and stated the township is dealing with a comprehensive zoning bylaw that dates back to 1985.
“Clearly it needs some updating as well.”
Lever assured Nykamp that the matter would be investigated.
May 11, 2012
The Wellington Advertiser
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