Property standards bylaw to be reviewed following concerns

Peggy Revell

A review of the Fort Frances’ Compliance with Property Standards Bylaw (Bylaw 14-09) by the Planning and Development committee was agreed upon by council following concerns over its fairness and viability expressed at Monday’s council meeting.
The decision came following Coun. Ken Perry questioning the town’s move to send a letter to five businesses in the west end highway entrance into Fort Frances over their compliance with the bylaw.
“We need to clean up the whole area, not five places,” Coun. Perry stated, disagreeing with the town sending letters to just five property owners, as opposed to the 40-plus properties located in that part of town.
“They chose the worst five properties that are out there—the ones that look the worst—but they only look the worst to us,” Coun. Perry said, noting that what “looks bad” is subjective opinion.
As well, the option of putting up a fence as a way to comply with the bylaw would also not be an acceptable option for these businesses, Perry said, questioning whether businesses would comply.
He noted the majority of the people in that area aren’t going to put up a solid fence, as it detracts from the fact that they’re paying high taxes to be highly desirable, commercial location.
“They want to display their wares, and whether we like the look of a back hoe or a front end loader, we can’t pick and choose who we send a letter to,” said Coun. Perry.
“At no time have [these five businesses] ever been given an order to comply, or instructed to construct a fence,” said Planning and Development Superintendent Rick Hallam, who clarified the issue yesterday afternoon.
The town has been wanting to rectify the property standard conditions of certain properties along the west end highway entrance to the town for many years, said Hallam, noting that this task was brought up at a strategic planning session last August.
At that session, “one of the things that was identified is something the town would like to accomplish is the cleaning up and the tidying up of the various properties on the west entrance to town, to give a more visual pleasing entrance and for people coming into Fort Frances,” Hallam explained. In March, the new property maintenance and occupancy standards bylaw that dealt with a lot of these issues was passed by council.
At the direction of council, Hallam wrote letters to these five property owners.
“At that time, they were respectfully requested to bring their properties into compliance with the bylaw,” Hallam explained, “and that is to tidy them up or to organize their equipment and their construction materials and stuff like that, and then they were offered an option of either constructing a fence of a certain height, or planting coniferous trees of a certain height and space and a certain distance apart as an option to doing the complete tidying up at the back.”
“We’ve actually asked them to comply with the bylaw, we’ve solicited cooperation,” he stressed. “We haven’t given them any specific order, and nor do we intend to unless we get to that point, and I sincerely believe that we probably will never get to that point because the property owners will work with us.”
In response to Coun. Perry’s concerns, Mayor Roy Avis noted that the issue of property standards reaches back for years.
He stressed that there has to be an attempt by council and administration to see the community cleaned up.
“We want to see a better community for us to live in and make it acceptable to people that drive within the community, drive in and see,” Mayor Avis said.
Both the west and east entrances to Fort Frances are the “biggest areas in the community” where he hears problems from people concerning unclean and messy yards.
But with Coun. Perry raising his concerns, Mayor Avis agreed that the bylaw should be sent back to the Planning and Development committee for review.
“I think we’re going to have to have some real good thought put into it, and come up with a proper solution to it. One that everyone can work under,” said the mayor.