Conservation authority to meet with campers over building code problems

Warwick Conservation Area
Warwick Conservation Area

Heather Wright/The Independent

St. Clair Region Conservation Authority officials will be meeting with campers to talk to them about problems with their decks and gazebos.

In March, the conservation authority board agreed to have about 150 of the 425 campers in the three conservation areas, remove or replace decks and gazebos which don’t meet the building code.

At the time Greg Wilcox, manager of the conservation area, said there was a significant number of trailers which didn’t meet the code particularly decks that are higher than 24 inches off the ground, without railings and roof structures which haven’t been properly constructed.

Wilcox admitted the authority had not been enforcing the building code but St. Clair’s insurance company said allowing the structures that aren’t complying with the building code to remain would mean the conservation authority could be held liable if anything went wrong and people were injured.

The decision anger campers who wrote to councillors about the issue. April 20, several people from the three campgrounds came to the authority’s board meeting to voice concerns.

Pete Fisher has a trailer at AW Campbell Conservation Area. He said the authorities guidelines which were in place in 2020 allowed campers to build the structures. He estimates the work on his site alone will cost about $10,000 to bring it up to the building code. Fisher says some people who were trying to sell their trailers are now stuck because buyers want to find out if they’ll be saddled with the cost of repairs.

Conservation Authority Board Chair, Pat Brown, told Fisher staff would be meeting with campers to discuss the problem.

“I believe within two weeks Greg is going to be meeting with the individual on individual sites, a couple days for each different campground, to review the issues.

“And from my understanding, I’m gathering that a lot of these issues are minor. But for whatever sites that are non- compliant, I’m sure we’re willing to work with them.”

That includes working with people who have wheelchair ramps which don’t meet code, says Wilcox.

And while the authority staff has some flexibility over decks that aren’t up to building code, Wilcox says shelters, like roofs and gazebos, are another story. “There’s no way to make them compliant,” he says.

Board member Lorie Scott hoped the personal visits at the campsites would help ease concerns. “They may find that the issues are not as bad as they seem.”