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Landlords applaud proposed bylaw change

Amendment would help address illegal dwellings
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Landlords had their say Monday on proposed changes to the city’s zoning bylaw, and most have applauded the move.

The proposed amendment affects properties on the east side of Highway 11 that might not be legal — houses that, over the years, have been transformed from single-family dwellings to multiple dwelling units.

The bylaw amendment would give property owners a chance to get the necessary building permits to come into compliance with building and fire code regulations.

“Most importantly, tenants will not be evicted,” Jill Lewis, the city’s senior planner, said during a public meeting at city hall.

The proposal would also speed up the process of obtaining a building permit.

“We’re quite intrigued and very hopeful about this proposal. We think it’s great for landlords and tenants,” said Darren O’Halloran, who owns rental property in town.

While supportive of the intentions of the bylaw change, Marc Dickie, who rents multiple properties in Orillia, worried about the financial implications.

“The city needs to discuss the costs that are going to be associated with this plan, with the influx of applications and inspections,” he said.

Jules McKenzie, who owns a number of rental properties, supports the proposal but feels the city could go even further.

“I would also challenge council to approve a moratorium on development charges on such units,” he said.

In December, it was determined there were 146 properties known or suspected to not be in compliance, and “that continues to grow,” Lewis said.

Asked to speculate on how many there might be overall, she said, “There could be multiple hundreds out there that we just don’t know exist.”

In her report to councillors, Lewis noted the proposed amendment would reduce the burden on bylaw-enforcement staff. Coun. Tim Lauer wondered if that would hold true if there are in fact hundreds more that need to conform.

“The zoning is only one piece of the puzzle,” Lewis replied, adding if the amendment is approved, those property owners will have to contact the city, as there is no mandate to have staff proactively enforce it.

“Until we get those staff resources in place, we’re looking forward to having landlords come forward,” she said.

The amendment will come back to council for its consideration no sooner than April 9.