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May. 13, 2021 | Thursday
Local News
UPDATED -- Hotel executive offers solution to school bus parking dispute
Kathy Latour and her landlord and sister Carol Hajas beside a sign that says “I support my local bus driver.” The sisters say they’re not happy that a neighbour’s complaint led to Latour’s school bus not being able to be parked in her driveway. (Richard Harley)

UPDATE: Latour has found a new home nearby for her school bus. After reading The Lake Report's story about the bus having to be moved, chief executive of Lais Hotels Properties Ltd. Bob Jackson offered Latour a space to park in a company lot nearby. Latour accepted the offer. This story was also updated to clarify that Latour has lived in NOTL for five years, not her whole life.

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A yellow school bus parked in a Niagara-on-the-Lake resident's driveway has sparked a dispute with a neighbour over whether the vehicle should be allowed there.

Kathy Latour, who lives at 178 John St. W., said her bus, about half the size of regular school bus, doesn't harm anyone so she should be allowed to park it at her home.

Her neighbours, Jim Rossiter and his wife Carmen, who live across the street at 169 John St. W., say it's an eyesore that violates the town's zoning bylaws.

Latour said Rossiter complained to the town several times, talked to her landlord (who is her sister) and to her employer, DanNel Coach Lines.

After the conversation with her employer, the bus was moved to the company's compound in the Port Weller neighbourhood of St. Catharines.

Now, when school eventually resumes, Latour said she will have to drive her own vehicle about 14 kilometres twice a day to pick up the bus for her morning and afternoon runs to William Hamilton Merritt, Lincoln Centennial and Prince of Wales public schools in St. Catharines.

Rossiter and his wife moved to Niagara-on-the-Lake from Toronto last June and said they don't like having to look at the yellow bus from their windows.

"I don't want to see the bus," Rossiter said. "The front of my property is dead to me with that bus there. My front rooms are dead to me with that bus there. People who come to visit me laugh at me because of that bus there. I can't sell the property because the bus is there. How is that fair to me," he said.

"How would you feel if you came in from Toronto, you look forward all your life to buying a place here, you buy it, and all of a sudden you're in front of the school bus parking lot?"

He said he thinks the bus being parked in the driveway amounts to "operating a business" from a residential property.

Rossiter, a law partner with Dentons, one of the world's largest law firms, said aside from him not liking the bus, that it also exceeds the size allowed in the town's zoning bylaw for commercial vehicles.

The bylaw says the storage of recreational vehicles, school buses and commercial vehicles larger than 22.96 feet (seven metres) is not permitted on a residential lot or on-street in a residential neighbourhood.

However, Latour said town staff came to check and told her she wasn't violating any town bylaws.

Lord Mayor Betty Disero also said town bylaw officers determined the bus doesn't contravene any NOTL municipal statutes.

"They've measured the bus. It meets the bylaw," she said.

However, Rossiter disagrees. He said he measured a bus similar to Latour's and found it to be larger than the permitted size.

The Lake Report attempted to measure the bus as well but it is secured in DanNel's compound and the company wouldn't allow a reporter onto the premises. DanNel also declined to say how long the bus is.

The Town of NOTL would not provide the measurement taken of the bus and said it had no comment on the issue.

Rossiter said the bus also contravenes another zoning bylaw regarding signage, which says, "There shall be no sign, display or other indicator visible from a public street which reveals the existence of a home occupation or home profession use in a dwelling unit."

Rossiter said he tried to approach Latour's landlord Carol Hajas to ask her to help do something about the bus, not knowing she is Latour's sister.

He said he was met with confrontation and told, "Go back where you came from" and “How dare you file a complaint with the (town)."

As well, he said he was also told that the sisters are friends with the mayor and “If my tenant loses her parking, wait until you see what happens to you.”

In an email to The Lake Report, Rossiter suggested Latour could park the bus at her sister's home, which is around the corner on Simcoe Street.

Latour said it's not about the extra time, but rather "the principle."

She said she's feeling bullied, a suggestion that Rossiter denied.

Rossiter claims the bus issue has been ongoing since before he purchased the house and that he was unaware of the bus when he purchased the property.

"I am told by other neighbours and the previous owners that they had previously chased the school bus away and it would appear that as we are new owners, (Hajas) decided to try us on to see if she might have better luck with us," he said.

However, Latour said she's never been forced to move the bus in the three years she's been driving and said this is the first complaint she's received.

She's gathered 21 signatures of neighbours from 17 nearby households who said they don't mind if she parks the bus in her driveway. "No one else cares that there's a vehicle here," Latour said.

Rossiter said the petition is meaningless.

Having signatures "from people who do not live opposite the bus saying they do not mind the bus is irrelevant. She has lived here all her life, she is bound to make some friends. I could go down the street in Toronto and get a petition from scores of friends and neighbours saying the bus should not park here – but so what? This does not change what the rules are. We do not in this country of laws govern ourselves with petitions."

Latour said she moved to town five years ago and has not lived in NOTL her whole life.

Rossiter said as far as he and his wife are concerned, with the bus gone, the issue has "been resolved."

He refused to say whether he threatened to sue the bus company but said he has no reason to sue Latour and has nothing personally against her.

"I can't sue her for anything. She's not doing anything wrong. Her employer DanNel Transportation is conducting a business at 178 (John St. W.) for which they have no permit, which is not zoned, which is not permitted," Rossiter said.

 

Jim Rossiter says his neighbour’s school bus doesn’t meet town bylaws and is not something he or his wife want to look at out their window. He successfully managed to get the bus company to move it. (Supplied/Jim Rossiter)
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