Shoreline preservation bylaw passed by county council

By Vivian Collings

The shoreline preservation bylaw was passed during Haliburton County’s regular council meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 24 after many questions were raised to director of planning Steve Stone.

The bylaw will come into effect on Apr. 1, 2023, and will “prohibit or regulate the destruction of injuring of trees and native vegetation and to prohibit or regulate the placing or dumping of fill, the removal of topsoil, the alteration of the grade of land on shoreline properties in the County of Haliburton.”

The applicable shoreline area is 20 metres from the high-water mark of lakes, rivers, and wetlands.

Council members who said yes to the bylaw were Warden Liz Danielsen, Deputy Warden Dave Burton, Mayor of Algonquin Highlands Carol Moffatt, Deputy Mayor of Highlands East Cecil Ryall, Deputy Mayor of Minden Hills Lisa Schell, and Mayor of Minden Hills Brent Devolin.

Those against passing the bylaw on Aug. 24 were Mayor of Dysart et al Andrea Roberts and Deputy Mayor of Dysart et al Patrick Kennedy.

“I totally think this is where we needed to get to today, a clean version, but I am in favour of pressing the pause button. That doesn’t mean I’m not in favour of the bylaw, but I do think passing the bylaw today, putting a future date on it, is opening ourselves up for still some problems,” Roberts said. “A new council will not start from square one. They are not starting from scratch. They are starting from what we’ve got today.”

Danielsen disagreed and believed that if current council didn’t pass the bylaw, all of their work on it could be discarded.

“I cannot, in all fairness, say we are pushing anything through. We’ve been working on this for five years. I believe it’s our responsibility to make a decision one way or the other. I’m [worried that], if we do not pass it, it all comes to a halt … you don’t know that a new council is just going to move on with where we are. They might just want to start from scratch again, and to me in my mind, that’s a waste of every bit of work that we’ve done,” Danielsen said.

Moffatt said it is possible, although unusual, for the new slate of council to rescind a bylaw, so she was in favour of passing the bylaw to see the job completed as an outgoing mayor and councillor.

The County of Haliburton began the process of creating the shoreline preservation bylaw in 2017.

Their approved budget includes the hiring of one applications examiner and two compliance monitoring officials to process permit applications and carry out in-field evaluations.

Ryall raised a concern about the possibility of hiring being a challenge on a short timeline.

“I am always optimistic, but I know, even over the last six months, it’s been challenging to hire people. Most shoreline activity begins after April 1st, and it would be if council does seek to implement this bylaw, we would try to hire the staff. Whether we can get a full compliment remains to be seen,” said director of planning for the County of Haliburton Steve Stone.

Danielsen said the bylaw may need to move forward without a full team of staff.

“The bylaw compliance officer would serve as a plans examiner if we were finding it difficult to find the necessary staffing for that, so it wouldn’t be that we would be out of having a certain skill set, we would make sure that if we can only get one bylaw compliance officer, they would be trained and skilled in plans examination, for example,” Stone said.

The public will be expected to self-determine whether or not a permit is needed to carry out desired projects on their shoreline property.

The planning department will carry out an education program to inform property owners and contractors of the allowable shoreline preservation practices.

This will include manuals, pamphlets, presentations, information posted on the county website, and training.

“One of the things that I wanted to do, and I think it would be very important, is to actually have a more enhanced suite of tools on the county’s website that give very clear examples of how the exemption process works and really delineates between what the average project might be,” Stone said.

He said the education program would be developed over time.

“It would be a work in progress. That’s what we call program evaluation. As things come up that need to be further explained or further clarified, then those things on the website would evolve to address the community’s needs of understanding.”

Roberts sent an email to Stone the day before the regular council meeting to express concern that the bylaw would not be brought to each municipality before it was passed.

“[Dysart councillors are] the ones going to lake association meetings, they’re the ones who are getting asked this question by constituents as well as us county councillors because it does effect us all. I think there was a thought that, prior to the passage of the bylaw, that the actual draft bylaw that we’re seeing today in a clean copy would be sort of vetted back to local municipalities,” Roberts said. “They feel the process that had been laid out back in 2019 is not necessarily being followed.”

Stone said if the rest of council wished for the bylaw to be brought to each township, then the planning department would be happy to do so.

Burton said, “Is there any reason why we cannot take it to the lower tier before it is passed as a clean document?”

Danielsen said councillors in each municipality should be following discussions about the shoreline preservation bylaw.

“It has gone back and forth, there have been a number of iterations of the bylaw, we have had public meetings, and opportunities for everyone to comment. I would think that it’s the responsibility of members of council of lower tiers to keep track of what we’re doing, to raise questions and concerns, to let our Mayors and Deputy Mayors know where they see pitfalls and problems and to have raised them already. To go back and try and tear the document apart again and then have to have another legal review again seems a rather extraordinary path to take, but that’s only my thought,” Danielsen said.

Devolin and Schell said Minden Hills council has been kept informed and is in favour of passing the bylaw.

“We’re here as the representatives of our constituents,” Devolin said. “I would say that we have overwhelming support and are ready to move forward on that basis in Minden Hills.”

Stone said after the bylaw is passed, county staff would go to local councils to explain the bylaw and decide how they would like to delegate authority.

“I put in equal sides delegation because there is an expectation that staff will go to local councils to sort of explain the bylaw in detail for their understanding, and then from there, they will be asked whether or not, in accordance with the municipal act, whether they want to delegate their authority to enforce the bylaw back to the county. So, that will happen in due process if council does approve the bylaw today, and then we’ll go out to the four townships in that regard.”

The bylaw will be reviewed by county staff on an “ongoing and periodic basis.”