Zoning bylaw amendment in the works

Merna Emara

The Town of Fort Frances is looking to amend the current zoning bylaws around tenting and camping on residential and non-residential areas.

Cody Vangel, chief building official and municipal planner, said rather than formatting an entire new bylaw, they looked at other municipalities’ bylaws and templates regarding administering tenting.

“It is to better administer the camping and tenting within the town of Fort Frances in various zones from different types of residential to commercial and industrial,” Vangel said. “This will better outline where tenting and camping can and cannot take place in a town.”

The current bylaw does not provide a definition for tenting, which is what the town is working on providing.

Doug Brown, the chief administrative officer for the Town of Fort Frances, said under the proposed bylaw, there can be no more then four tents on residential type properties.

These types fall under R1, single-unit general residential and R2, low density residential.

“We have a problem with what the Volunteer Bureau is doing. We respect that they are helping the homeless, but we need to have a proper shelter for homeless people. Council represents everyone in the community. It does not make sense that you have a homeless shelter in a residential area,” Brown said.

“The whole idea is we should have systems in place that take care of the homeless and avoid having these tent cities. We’re moving in the positive direction, but it takes time. It’s not good in any community when you got homeless sleeping in tents.”

Vangel said the Volunteer Bureau is currently under general and local commercial enterprise. If the proposed amendment is adopted, it would not allow tenting on those properties.

Monica Sus, coordinator of the Family Centre, said the tents cannot come down until somebody comes up with a solution.

“I do not think anybody should be sleeping in a tent,” Sus said. “I do not like the tents more than anybody else, but until a solution is found, I do not think anybody – including the town – is going to do anything about it, because they have not come up with a solution. We’re certainly not for tents, we are for keeping people safe and warm.”

The Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board (RRDSSAB) purchased the Apostolic Way Church to be long-term homeless shelter.

However, Sus said RRDSSAB has many rules and regulations around not allowing individuals who consume alcohol or drugs in the shelter.

Brown said the town is working with RRDSSAB and the Volunteer Bureau to come up with a better plan than people sleeping in tents. It’s not a long-term solution to have someone sleeping in a tent in the winter time, he added.

Amending the bylaw is a three-step process. The first process is currently taking place where the legal team has to approve the amendment draft. Upon approval, it will go back to the Planning and Developing Executive Committee and a public notice meeting will take place. The final step would be for town council to adopt it.

“The town is very supportive of the Family Centre. They are stepping up to take care of the homeless and RRDSSAB has been trying to find agencies, but it takes time,” Brown said. “We are moving to a long-term solution to make sure that every homeless person has the proper shelter.”