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City begins process of prohibiting portable vehicle shelters

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
September 17th, 2020

Portable vehicle shelters within the city’s limits will likely follow the Edsel.

City council has approved the first three readings of an amendment to the Zoning Bylaw that will prohibit the use of portable vehicle shelters moving forward.

The effective post-date of the adoption will be August 17, meaning the bylaw cannot be enforced against potable vehicle shelters that were in use in Nelson before the adoption date.

There had been considerable discussion on city council about discouraging the portable shelter use and encouraging any other form of shelter for a vehicle when the idea was brought forward three months ago.

“They are convenient but there are more issues than good upsides,” noted Coun. Britny Anderson at the time.

“You can buy these and put them up in the same place (without a permit) where you would have to come to council and request a variance. I think we are heading in the wrong direction.”

However, when the item came up last week during the regular city council meeting there was no discussion and the first three readings passed.

“These structures appear to be a relatively popular option amongst residents,” noted the city staff report to council earlier this year.

The bylaw currently limits pre-fabricated shelters to one per lot, as long as they meet the minimum setbacks. A building permit is not required.

The bylaw is intended to be amended to strengthen the maintenance aspect of the shelters by putting the onus on owners to keep up the look and condition of the temporary structures.

They need to maintained in good condition, noted city planner Alex Thumm in his report to city council on the matter, and the Zoning Bylaw needed wording to reflect that and allow for enforcement.

“Otherwise it is a non-compliant use,” he said. “We would then have the option to issue a bylaw ticket … that it not being maintained in a good condition. That is something we don’t have the ability to do right now.”

The bylaw change was considered consistent with the Official Community Plan. As well, the amendment was considered “minor in nature” and therefore a public hearing was not held.

Portable vehicle shelters are prohibited in some cities, like Ottawa, Winnipeg and several Quebec suburban municipalities. Some municipalities restrict the duration that a vehicle shelter can be up each year (the municipalities of Montreal and Timmins, Ont. only permit them from October to April).

Portable vehicle shelter

Portable vehicle shelter means a pre-manufactured or custom-built structure consisting of wood, tubular metal or tubular plastic frame covered with fabric, reinforced plastic, canvas, vinyl or similar material, designed to be easily assembled and dismantled or removed, intended for temporary storage purposes or vehicle storage and that is no greater than 23 metres square and limited to one storey.


The proposed amendment specifies that a portable vehicle shelter shall conform to the setbacks and maximum height of a carport (instead of the current wording that it shall conform to “the setbacks”).

The amending bylaw proposes a new regulation that they be maintained in good condition and working order.

“This will facilitate enforcement on portable vehicle shelters that are in disrepair, unsightly, and potentially unsafe,” noted the city staff report on the amendment in June.

Another amendment to the Bylaw Notice Enforcement Bylaw was to introduce a $300 fine for “failure to maintain a portable vehicle shelter in good condition.”

Amendment run down

Over the past year city staff compiled a number of amendments to the Zoning Bylaw for council’s consideration:

Amended definitions:

  1. An amended definition of “Accessory Building or Structure” Explicitly classifies garages and carports as an accessory building to clarify that they are subject to regulations on accessory buildings.
  2. Introducing a definition for “Frontage” In various sections, the bylaw makes reference to “frontage” without providing a definition of what is understood by frontage.
  3. A new definition for “Secondary Suite Ready” The R3 zone requires that a new single-detached home be “secondary suite ready.” The current definition does not provide guidance on what this means. The new proposed definition provides clarity by setting minimum standards (e.g. kitchen rough-in).
  4. A new definition for “Temporary Building” The current definition calls these “a building which is not supported on permanent foundations, such as metal storage containers.”

There is not consensus on what “permanent foundations” refers to. Second, it refers to metal storage containers without defining these and without concluding whether or not a metal storage container must always be a temporary building.

Proposed definition:Temporary building means a building or structure placed on a lot for a limited period of time, at the end of such time the building is removed from the lot, but does not include a temporary shelter, or a mobile home which is located in a mobile home park or a recreational vehicle.

—    Source: City of Nelson

Categories: General

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