BENJAMIN PRIEBE The Standard
SCUGOG: Three local residents sat before council on Monday, March 3, to raise the latest grievance with proposed changes to Scugog Township's new zoning by-law, regarding the definition of a communal dwelling - which they want stricken from the books.
Martha Casson, Vice Chair of the Scugog Seniors Advisory Committee and John Lucyk, owner of Lucyk Renovations Limited, argued to council that this new definition raises obstacles for seniors attempting to purchase and share an affordable home together and avoid moving into commercial retirement facilities. In an effort to gain clout, the group of concerned residents sought representation by professional land-usage consultant Valerie Cranmer.
The issue stems from Scugog's recently released new zoning by-laws, which drew ire when they sought to classify shared-ownership homes with more than six rooms, and with more than one bedroom connecting with an en suite bathroom, as a form of retirement home or rooming house. Scugog Township created this new classification, previously unheard of in the township, in an effort to circumvent property tax scams, issues with fire code, and boarding houses being erected on its historical streets.
"The regulations regarding so-called communal housing are an attempt to control the relationship of people, with respect to joint ownership of a property," said Ms. Cranmer. "The terminology is incorrect, the proper term for referring to multiple ownership of a building is 'tenants in common.' The whole thing would be nearly impossible to enforce, without by-law officers performing head counts on occupants."
The deputation group stated that many Scugog residences would be classified as "illegal non-conforming dwellings" if they meet the criteria and are jointly-owned by a citizen and a spouse, relative, or friend.
The final major point of discussion between Scugog Township Councillors and the deputation dealt with the providing of services such as housekeeping, lawn care, and medical care. According to Ms. Cranmer, Director of Community Services Don Gordon stated that "when a home becomes a place where services are provided, it becomes a different type of use, such as a small retirement facility," at a Public Meeting in October 2013.
Ms. Cranmer quoted Mr. Gordon in her presentation, and explained that as people age, they will require certain services until a time when they are forced to move into a commercial retirement facility.
"It would appear that, if I were to become incapacitated or were caring for a senior family member and require yard-work or medical service, my joint-ownership dwelling would automatically become a commercial retirement facility."
Council thanked the group for contributing their thoughts on this complex issue, and Mayor Chuck Mercier stated that "we should wait until all of the work is done, as there are many adjustments and concerns from many people. We need to discuss these criteria with the proponents and ensure that all of our bases are covered."
Meetings have been set-up between Mr. Gordon and the proponents to come to a satisfactory solution. More information, including fire code regulations, is expected to be brought to the March 17 council meeting.
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