Other shoe drops for local business
Owners of Rivers Edge Studio ‘blindsided’ by Dysart closure decision
|By Alex Coop - Staff Writer | June 15, 2017|
Haliburton residents Jack James and his wife Ann Paterson were surprised to get a visit from Dysart’s bylaw staff May 3 after the municipality received a single complaint about their Rivers Edge Studio store.
Shrouded by trees on the corner of Harburn Road and Highway 118, the small shop sits next to their log cabin home a dozen yards away from Northern Expressions. After the couple moved to Haliburton in 2012 from Kawartha Lakes, they refurbished the 400-square-foot detached building and opened to the public in 2014.
They sold handmade wooden crafts like birdhouses, small tables and moccasins.
It was a dream come true, says Paterson, who handled most of the marketing and sales. James’ talent was carpentry. They ran the same business when they lived in Omemee.
“It helped pay our winter bills, too,” Paterson told The Highlander.
But that dream was dealt a significant blow after bylaw staff told them they had to shut their business down.
“We’re not sure what we’re going to do,” she said. “They’ve basically taken away our income.”
The complaint that prompted the investigation was about the building the couple’s business was being operated from and the type of merchandise being sold, specifically the moccasins.
For more than 15 years, Paterson has ordered moccasins from Eugene Cloutier, a wholesale company in Quebec.
They sold the moccasins, James’ wooden creations and other refurbished items they found at flea markets.
But the couple’s property is zoned residential, and bylaw staff noted in a report to Dysart council May 23 that a home business is a permitted use on properties zoned residential, but not if it’s selling imported items.
“A home business is to take place entirely within the dwelling unit. No retail sales are permitted unless they are ‘arts and crafts, produced on the premises’. Mr. James’ moccasin business does not meet this test,” the report said.
The municipality’s official plan allows for neighbourhood commercial uses, but only if the property has a direct access from a road that is maintained year-round by a public road authority, the report said.
Rivers Edge Studio doesn’t meet those criteria either.
James admits they were aware of some of these issues after they opened Rivers Edge Studio, but told councillors that for several months, now-retired bylaw staff Dan Sayers and Ron Henselwood had assured them that their doors wouldn’t close and that a resolution was possible.
In retrospect, Dysart Reeve Murray Fearrey says that was a mistake.
“It would have been more appropriate to tighten up the enforcement,” Fearrey told The Highlander after the council meeting.
Four letters from neighbours supporting the couple were submitted to council.
But it wasn’t enough to sway council in favour of James’ request to continue selling moccasins out of his home.
Karl Korpela, Dysart’s new chief building official, told The Highlander that the municipality worked out a “voluntary compliance path” with James, giving them one month to bring the property into conformance with the zoning bylaw.
James says it would be very difficult and costly to retrofit their home, in addition to rezoning their property.
“We don’t have that kind of money,” he said.
The only other option is to sell the moccasins online or find a business in town that would help sell the moccasins.
“We’re hoping for a miracle,” Paterson said. “Our neighbours are wonderful and they don’t want us to leave.”
ALEX COOP is a reporter for The Highlander.