Windsor man in standoff with city over driveway tent for daughter with disability

The City of Windsor has ordered a local man to take his driveway tent down — a temporary structure he uses to help get his daughter, who has a disability, in and out the house in the winter.

Steven Levesque says he put up the tent because it’s a safer and easier way of transporting his 14-year-old daughter, who has cerebral palsy and epilepsy, without worrying about the ice and snow.

“We put the enclosure to keep the van out of the elements,” he said. “It’s a handicap vehicle that we can load the ramp out halfway and get my daughter into the van when we transport her.”

This is the first year Levesque and his fiance have used a driveway tent. Levesque says it’s because as his daughter has grown older and bigger, it’s also become more of a struggle to get her from the school bus to the house and vice-versa. He also finds staying with his daughter in the tent for a bit before bringing her into the house makes the process easier.

He intends to keep the tent up only temporarily in the winter, and take it down when spring comes.

Steven Levesque transfers his 14-year-old daughter into his driveway tent. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

He put up the tent on Thursday last week, but on Friday, he received notice that the structure is in violation of a city zoning bylaw. A bylaw officer will issue a citation if he doesn’t have the tent down by Friday.

“I don’t know what to do,” Levesque said. “Come December 5 we’ll see what happens, whether I take it down or face the consequences.”

Levesque spoke to the bylaw officer who gave him the notice, but beyond receiving a little sympathy, didn’t get very far.

He’s contacted every member of city council to see if he can get an exception. He’s also posted in the Windsor Car Spotters Facebook group, asking for advice.

Steven Levesque next to the handicap van used to transport his daughter, who has cerebral palsy and epilepsy. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

Levesque says he doesn’t know who complained about the tent.

“Most people recognize our situation and are okay with it,” he said. “But there’s always that bad apple that they have to mind everyone’s business but their own.”

“It might be an eyesore, but it’s a needed eyesore for us.”

‘It’s certainly not a good situation’

John Revell, the city’s chief building official, says there isn’t much he or the bylaw office can do to make an exception for Levesque’s needs.

He says they received a complaint through 311, and that there is an open and active investigation.

“In situations like that, those temporary covers people like to use to prevent snow from getting on their vehicles, those aren’t allowed in front yards — they’re prohibited in the front of a house,” he said.

He says that no orders have been issued yet. If Levesque does get an order, he’ll have 30 days to comply, and if he still doesn’t comply, he’ll get a warning letter.

After that, Revell says, the city would file with the courts and it would become a court matter.

John Revell, Windsor’s chief building official, says he doesn’t have the ability to cut Levesque any slack for the driveway tent. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

“The inspector’s following up with the homeowner, and we’ll let the inspector deal with that,” he said. “It’s certainly not a good situation, and I certainly feel for the homeowner, but there is a prohibition under the zoning bylaw, so that’s why there’s an open investigation here.”

Levesque’s only option, according to Revell, is to go through the planning department to see if he can get approval for rezoning or temporary use zoning — but that matter would have to go before council and get approved.

In any case, Levesque is planning on keeping the tent up.

“I think that’s what we’re intending to do at this point,” he said.

“I think my daughter’s health and safety is more important than any repercussions we’ll suffer.”

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