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Gimme shelter: seniors face bans on Tempo carports

Martin C. Barry

December, 2009

With snow and wind bearing down mercilessly on even the young and hardy, winter in Montreal has always been a challenge for senior citizens. But in some areas of the island, municipal officials don’t seem very interested in the needs of seniors, even preventing them from erecting temporary car ports or doorway shelters to break the wind.

In Côte St. Luc, Jay Rubinstein, a 76-year-old McAlear resident, appealed to city council recently on behalf of himself and a neighbour for special permission as seniors to be exempted from a Côte St. Luc bylaw that forbids Tempo car shelters in driveways if there already is a garage.

Rubinstein has lived in the same home in Côte St. Luc for 54 years. During a city council meeting, he said he had a “wretched basement garage and whether I hire a snow removal firm or clean the driveway myself it is difficult to go up the driveway because of slippery conditions after a snowfall.” In addition, he added, snow removal contractors will not remove the accumulation of snow on top of cars.

Photo: Martin C. Barry

Rubinstein told Côte St. Luc mayor Anthony Housefather how he and the neighbour, who is recovering from cancer surgery, have two cars parked in their driveways without any shelter. “There is no solution for us, other than to erect a Tempo shelter,” he said. “We are an older population … there’s got to be a solution.

“We are just as deserving of the right to have one as someone who has no carport or garage. … If you don’t want them at all for aesthetic purposes it’s one thing. But why suddenly are the people without carports allowed them and why not me?”

While acknowledging that Côte St. Luc generally discourages Tempos for aesthetic and other reasons, Housefather said the city allows residents without garages to put them up. However, he insisted, “the way the bylaw is currently constructed, the city council has no discretion in the matter to grant you an exemption for hardship or any other reason. I don’t have the power to do it, the council doesn’t have the power to do it. We’d have to change the bylaw.” Housefather said he would take Rubinstein’s request for a change in the bylaw under advisement, “but I can’t grant you an exemption.”

In an e-mailed response to a question from The Senior Times, the mayor confirmed, “We have no power to exempt anyone from a bylaw. It (the Tempo bylaw) has been in force for over 20 years and we will review his request at a future date to see if we are interested in amending the bylaw.”

In Park Extension, until two years ago homeowners, many of them seniors, erected improvised doorway shelters, often fashioned from plastic sheeting and scrap pieces of wood. While they were regarded by some as “visual pollution” and there were safety concerns as well, seniors grew to appreciate the tunnel-like structures, which provided an added measure of protection from the elements on cold and blustery winter days.

In 2007, the borough of Villeray/­St-Michel/Park Extension stepped in with a new bylaw cracking down on the use of polyethylene, particle board or other materials with an unfinished look in the construction of the improvised winter shelters. While pre-fabricated Tempo shelters are permitted by the borough over driveways, shelters over front walks have now virtually disappeared. While some of the rationales for the ban were fire safety and crime prevention, it came into force with at least some complaints from affected seniors.

“The main concern was to have visibility,” says Park Extension City Councillor Mary Deros, noting that the new bylaw also made it mandatory to have windows to prevent undesirables from lurking inside. While effectively placing a ban on covering balconies, the borough still allows shelters on front walks as long as they’re built on a metal frame and are anchored securely. “We have an aging population,” Deros says.

“A lot of them come out to wait for a taxi or adapted transportation. The last few winters we’ve had a lot of snowfall and they don’t have the means or strength to shovel the snow.”

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