Storage shelters to need permits

As of Jan. 1, the Town of Fort Frances will require local residents and property owners to obtain a building permit prior to the construction or erection of tarped-style storage shelters.
“By definition of the Building Code Act and its regulation, the Ontario Building Code, fabric-covered shelters are considered as buildings,” Rick Hallam, Chief Building Official for the Town of Fort Frances, explained in an interview last week.
“However, the policy that was set in place years before I was with the town was that the town would not compel people to take out a building permit for them because, primarily, the belief at the time was that they were temporary in nature and that at some point in time they would be replaced with a more permanent building,” he added.
“Construction of these shelters has improved over the years, and they’re now becoming more permanent,” noted Hallam. “They can no longer be viewed as a temporary fix for storage.”
Hallam said the town doesn’t want to discourage people from having the tarped-style storage shelters, but wants to make sure the public knows that they must follow the requirements of the zoning bylaw for proper location, lot coverage, etc., as well as the building code for structural and anchorage requirements.
While many local residents do phone the Planning and Development division for advice when they wish to put up such a storage shelter, not all do, which can present some problems, whether it’s improper location on the property or not having the structure properly anchored to the ground.
The answer to ensuring these regulations are followed is building permits, said Hallam.
“Persons wishing to erect these types of shelters will need to follow the same process as for the erection of any other type of building.
“The process requires that an application be submitted along with a site plan of the property showing the size and location of all existing structures, the proposed size and location of the shelter, and the manufacturer’s specifications for the structure,” he explained.
“The municipal planner [Faye Flatt] will review the application for compliance with the zoning bylaw. Once approved by the planner, and the Chief Building Official is satisfied that the structure meets the requirements of the building code, a building permit can be issued.
“Once erected, the shelter will be inspected to ensure compliance with the Ontario Building Code,” added Hallam.
The basic fee for a building permit is $50, which applies to structures with a construction cost of $1,000 or less. Anything with a price tag over that costs an additional $9.50 per $1,000 of value.
“There are many good reasons for us to want to do this,” Hallam stressed. “Not the least of which is the safety of persons in or around them [the shelters].
“Many of these structures do not meet the structural requirements for snow or wind loads for our region.”
This past year, an incident occurred in Fort Frances where someone put up a shelter, didn’t fasten it to the ground properly, and it was picked up and dumped in their neighbour’s yard on a windy day.
“Recently in another region of Ontario, a shelter collapsed under the weight of snow and a young woman died as a result of the weight of the snow,” noted Hallam.
“We need to ensure these types of things do not occur in our municipality,” he stressed. “It is important that owners recognize that they should not allow snow to accumulate on the roof portion.
“If something happens to one of these buildings and someone gets hurt, or worse yet, loses their life, the property owner can be held liable,” he warned.
“A municipality may also bear some responsibility if it can be shown that they were negligent in allowing the construction,” he continued. “If we’re going to sanction the use of these shelters, we must treat them no differently than any other type of accessory building.”
Hallam clarified the town will not be looking retroactively at property owners with existing storage shelters with regards to the need for building permits, and they’ll be “grandfathered in.”
However, there are some out there that will need to be reviewed for compliance with the zoning bylaw.
“We would like to think they’re temporary and at some point in time be replaced with a more permanent structure. But there’s no guarantee of that,” Hallam said.
“Some of these shelters, the way they’re manufactured, they’re lasting 10-15 years or longer.
“Fort Frances is not alone in developing policy to regulate these types of shelters,” he added. “Many municipalities across the province require the issuance of a building permit.
“Some municipalities do not allow them on residentially-zoned properties.”
For more information, contact Hallam at 274-5323 ext. 252.