The RM refuses to acknowledge that Leandra and Gerry Cameron’s farm residence’s addition is exempt under the Uniform Building and Accessibility Standards Act (UBAS) upheld by the RM’s own by-law.
Through the RM’s building permit process, the RM is requiring the Camerons to get costly engineered drawings, energy efficiency compliance forms and a detailed site plan for the addition. Leandra Cameron questioned the RM’s Development Officer, Liana Campbell, about the requirement, who responded, “Your addition is not farm related. It is an addition to an existing home. The addition is not exempt.”
In communication with the Camerons, Chief Building Official for the Government of Saskatchewan’s Building and Technical Standards Branch Marvin Meickel made it clear that her project was, in fact, exempt; “As your dwelling unit is exempt as a farm building, so would any alterations, renovations or additions made to the structure. In other words, increasing the building area of the dwelling unit does not affect the exemption. It would still be applicable. Therefore, there will [be] no need to obtain a building permit for the addition.”
The council for RM of McKillop discussed the matter at their June 22nd meeting where the RM’s CAO Brandi Morissette said there had been correspondence between the RM and the Ministry of Government Relations; however, still refusing to acknowledge the exemption saying “it comes down interpretation and what the RM is allowed to do in relation to that legislation and the RM feels that AG buildings should have building permits submitted and that’s the direction the RM will go.” Morissette recommended that council uphold and enforce the building permit requirements for the Camerons. She further advised the council that all the RM had to do was “word-smith” their by-laws to require permits to include farm-related buildings under the UBAS Act.
Councillor Garry Dixon made the motion that this “particular project” will require a building permit, saying “for no other reason than for the energy efficiency code.” There was no discussion among council before voting unanimously to pass the motion. The only agricultural Council member, Bill McKenzie, did not respond when asked for comment.
McKillop’s mostly beach council seems constantly at odds with area farmers. In a recent Council meeting, Reeve Bob Schmidt said he felt that the RM’s farmers should also be required to take out permits when clearing bush from their ag land. The RM has also been on the lookout for AG buildings operating non-ag-related businesses to require them to bring the buildings up to commercial code and reassessment.
Jonathan Tremblay, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Government Relations, said that the Ministry’s position is that “Farm buildings, including houses on farms are exempt from the application of construction standards.” RM’s can’t circumvent an ACT by word-smithing their by-laws, BUT he said that “Municipalities can make building by-laws that require standards higher than those required by UBAS and the National Building Code.” The Ministry also said that building by-laws require Ministerial approval after the municipality passes them. There are no provisions in UBAS for them to be applied retroactively. This means that the Camerons should be clear to proceed without their building permit for their addition.
When we asked the RM how many permits on AG buildings and residences the RM has required since January of 2019, the RM requested a fee for the information. We paid the 15$, and they told us that since 2019 there had been zero permits for AG buildings and AG residences. We checked in with neighbouring RM’s to see what they are doing. The RM of Longlaketon requires building permits for all buildings. The permits have fees based on the value of construction; however, there are no engineering requirements that go along with the permit for ag buildings because they are exempt under the legislation. They are also not required to be inspected.
The RM of Last Mountain Valley does not require building permits for AG buildings, including residences, as they are exempt under legislation.
The RM of Mount Hope only requires development permits in the RM as they do not have a building by-law. Therefore, there are no fees required for the development permits.
The RM of Lumsden recognizes the farm building exemption under UBAS however have written into their by-laws the requirement for building permits for AG residences.
When asked for comment, the Camerons said, “We were absolutely astounded that the RM is unwilling to accept the Government of Saskatchewan’s, Chief Building Officials clarification...The RM is not following their own Building Bylaw and appears to have their own interpretation of the UBAS Act contrary to what Government Officials are communicating to them.”
While some farmers like the Camerons may be exempt now from construction standards on their homes, on January 1st, 2022, changes are coming with the proclamation of the Construction Codes Act that will replace UBAS. Tremblay said that a new definition for farm buildings was developed in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture. As a result, farmhouses will no longer be exempt from the application of the construction standards.
Leandra Cameron said she has spoken to an area farmer who added a garage onto his existing home and wasn’t required to take out a building permit. The Camerons are considering their next steps as they question why they are being treated differently.
Jennifer Argue, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Last Mountain Times