The Dairy Avenue property known as Stepping Stone Trailer Park has been ordered by the Town of Greater Napanee to cease operation by Monday.
According to a description on the Stepping Stone Trailer Park for the Homeless Facebook page, they ‘supply a warm dry place for people to go (to) that have no place to stay’. Scott Drader, who owns the property, says the town has informed him any trailers on the property will be removed at his cost on Monday.
In a letter sent by the town Nov. 15, Drader was told he was in violation of By-Law No. 02-22. A similar letter was sent to Drader on Nov. 2 of last year, as well as one on June 28, 2018. Essentially it reads that the property is not zoned for a trailer park.
“(The town) said we needed 10 acres to build around a trailer park,” said Drader on his latest notice. “That was a new one to me. They never given me any specifics on what by-laws I’m breaking or anything like that. They just kept hiding from it for the past two and a half years. (The town) basically gave me until Monday to have all of the people out of trailers….Right now I have 13 people that as of Monday morning are going to be in tents and homeless.”
Drader says with the warming centre not yet set up for the year, his tenants would have nowhere to go.
“(The warming centre) opens at night, you’re not allowed to sleep there because its commercial zoned so you’re not allowed to put cots up,” said Drader. “Where do they go during the day when it’s still -30 out?”
When presented with the letter last year, Drader did eventually comply with the town’s by-law.
“He received the same kind of letter last year,” Brandt Zatterberg, general manager of community and corporate services with Greater Napanee said of Drader. “He started up again around Oct. 23. I know there had been people in and out of there over the summer, but that was different because there were no trailers. But the trailers started arriving in October and he started advertising publicly for Stepping Stone Trailer Park for the Homeless. The order he had followed last year, he went against it again and now he’s back doing the same thing again.”
On Wednesday the town installed a fence to separate Drader’s property from the one next to it.
“He had been using quite a bit of the property adjacent to his with his trailers,” said Zatterberg. “We put wooden stakes in there, we realized over the summer those stakes were gone. The purpose was to go back in and mark the line. The fence posts aren’t on his property, they’re actually 18-24 inches inside the other property.”
An online petition on Change.Org has been launched entitled ‘Help Stepping Stone Trailer Park remain open year round’. As of Friday afternoon, 573 people had signed. Drader is hoping to prevent the eviction until at least the middle of December, when he plans to have a tiny home installed on his property.
While tiny homes were discussed by town council at their last meeting on Nov. 12, they are still not allowed within the township at this time.
“If they allow the zoning change for that, I can go with tiny homes,” said Drader. “It’ll look neater. I have corporate sponsors that are willing to do this. I’ve got corporate sponsors just sitting here waiting for me to get approved. It’s not like it’s going to cost the town any money.”
Drader is urging the town to grant a minor variance, which would mean if he were to ever sell his property it would revert back to its previous zoning by-law regulations.
Since opening the trailer park, Drader says he’s helped 75 homeless people find affordable housing and jobs.
“It’s not a permanent situation,” Drader said of his tenants. “This is basically we set them up for three or four months to find affordable housing. It might not be in Napanee, it might be in Kingston or Belleville. But it gives them time to get cleaned up and save up (money).”
Drader says he’s planning a peaceful protest on Monday morning, either at town hall or on his property.