By Vivian Collings
Haliburton County council decided it is still too soon to pass the shoreline preservation bylaw, so it will be reviewed again at the next regular council meeting on Aug. 24 once more adjustments are made.
One of the adjustments will be to consider wetlands as protected within the bylaw.
“I’m not comfortable with some pieces of [the proposed bylaw], however, we are so close it’s not even funny, and if we can’t get it in two weeks, then where does it say we can’t have another special meeting in September to get the thing done, but get it done so that we can go to our people and say, ‘not only is this a good bylaw on paper, but the darn thing is going to work, and it’s going to work well for all of us; the environment, the governments that are affected, and also the people,’” said Deputy Mayor of Highlands East Cecil Ryall.
During the Aug. 10 Haliburton County special meeting of council, councillors reviewed comments made about the new Haliburton County shoreline preservation bylaw document from solicitor Paul Dray of Paul Dray Legal Services.
Dray’s comments were presented by senior planner Jason Ferrigan of J.L. Richards and Associates Ltd, and they consisted of language change recommendations to provide more clarity to certain sections of the document.
To help give more clarity to readers, council decided to move definitions of words within the document to the beginning of the and to also add a severability clause.
Decision to hold the vote
Some council members were prepared to pass the bylaw at the special meeting, while others thought it was too soon.
“We’ve had five years invested in this and there’s been comments made on multiple platforms, folks that have only paid attention in the last little while, and there’s a lot of time and energy both by this council, the lower tiers, staff, a lot of stuff. There’s no bylaw or legislation that’s perfect, and we’ve not only made reference during the course of this process that this is a living thing, that if there are things with unintended outcomes that council can quickly change those things with whatever we pass. I can say that I think this a good product. I think it passes all kinds of standards and tests when I compare it to other jurisdictions … I am ready to move forward with this. Water and our natural environment is our principal asset in Haliburton County,” Mayor of Minden Hills Brent Devolin said.
Warden Liz Danielsen said, previously, a vote might have been held at the special meeting on Aug. 10 to amend the bylaw, but she suggested another option is to bring a “clean document” back to the Haliburton County regular council meeting on Aug. 24 to vote on.
“I know that will open us up to another ream of emails on all sides, and it would have been my preference [to vote now], we’ve just worked on this for so long, but there are some things that need clarity,” Danielsen said.
Deputy Mayor of Minden Hills Lisa Schell said she is in support of the decision to clarify items in the document further, but she wishes for the current council to vote on the bylaw instead of leaving it for the next term.
“At the end of the day, I’m elected by the residents of Minden Hills, and everything that our council has received from our lake associations within our municipality, they are in favour of this document. I know that some of our other councillors sitting here from some of the lakes within their district are not in favour, but we have to vote based on what we are hearing from our constituents,” Schell said. “I am prepared to do as you said and bring back a clean copy so that we all have an opportunity to see it, but once that’s done, I would like to see this council either move this forward or put it to bed. I don’t like the idea of leaving it for the next council.”
Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt agreed and said the process of the shoreline preservation bylaw has been slow, but a clean copy is necessary.
“I still don’t feel that this is the time to pass and enact a bylaw … that doesn’t mean I don’t think we’ve done really good work. I just think the implementation is going to be a lot more complicated, and I think that needs to be clearly spelled out prior,” Mayor of Dysart et al Andrea Roberts said.
Schell and Danielsen addressed the situation being called a “lame duck” by some community members.
“We have gotten legal advice. There is absolutely no “lame duck” associated with this project. It’s been budgeted for us, it’s been planned, we›ve been working on it for years, the money’s in the budget, and it’s the financial aspect of it that has the most impact on the “lame duck,”” Danielsen said.
Wetlands as part of the bylaw
Council expressed their desire to protect wetlands within the shoreline preservation bylaw.
Ferrigan spoke about section 2 of the bylaw which states, “This By-law shall apply to the shoreline in the County,” and said that “bodies of water” needed to be further clarified within the document so readers could identify what is also considered “shoreline.”
“Shoreline is a defining term. Through our discussion, as we were looking at the definition of shoreline, which includes a secondary reference to a body of water, and then going back and looking at the definition of prohibited area, those two definitions in particular, body of water and prohibited area, they’re subject to some interpretation, and our recollection of the conversation that we had with county council was that county council was interested in protecting the shoreline, the first 20 metres back from the high-water mark,” Ferrigan said. “County council was also interested in protecting environmental features within the community that are identified in the county and in the local planning document. If you go and read the definition of “body of water” in particular, it can be interpreted in two different ways. It can be interpreted in that council is seeking to protect wetlands only within the defined shoreline area, so that first 20 metres back from the high-water mark. Or, it could also be interpreted as county council wishes for that protection to be extended to wetlands beyond the shoreline area.”
Ferrigan expressed their desire to alter the language used in the bylaw so it is subject to less interpretation and asked council if they wished for the bylaw to include language to state that wetlands are also protected.
“It was my understanding that at the end of the discussion we had agreed on the desire to protect the wetlands overall, not just the 20 metres, but I would look to members of council to confirm that or comment,” Danielsen said.
“Maybe there’s an opportunity to add something, such as a phrase that refers to, ‘and those lands zoned as open space or environmental protection,’ so that may be the fix that council’s looking at for some clarity that doesn’t specifically say wetlands, but it would include them if the townships have zoned it accordingly,” said director of planning for the County of Haliburton Steve Stone.
Ferrigan said, “I would suggest that if county council wishes to have the bylaw apply to wetlands, then we would take your direction and go back and look at the definition of body of water, and look at section 2 of the bylaw … and we will need to change that definition slightly.”
Roberts said protecting wetlands have been a concern for many people across the county, and both Roberts and Danielsen said they believe wetlands should be included in the shoreline preservation bylaw’s definition of “body of water.”
Addressing evironmental impact studies
Roberts brought up a recent zoning amendment in Dysart where property owners desired to extend residential zoning on their property.
The owners needed to acquire an environmental impact study to determine where wetlands existed on the ground in comparison to where they existed on Dysart maps because the wetlands on the maps didn’t match real wetlands on the ground, which cost the owners thousands.
“I guess part of my concern is our mapping. It isn’t necessarily accurate to what’s on the ground,” Roberts said.
“We had a similar situation for an application where there was an identified wetland that actually didn’t exist, so I think that’s maybe a note to staff that some of the tools we use may not be exactly aligned. Yes, those studies are expensive, and I think part of the overall intent of this glacial process is around the expectation or the obligation of stewardship,” Moffatt said. “Wetlands are the lungs of the Earth, and we have lots of them in Haliburton County, and if you have one on your property, it’s a stewardship opportunity. So, we almost shouldn’t have to put anything in place to govern that, but it sounds like we do, and unfortunately what goes with that could be those studies … the bottom line is this is an overall view to maintain what we have for as long as we can.”
Reviewing the document on an ongoing basis
Ferrigan asked council if they would like to change wording to say the bylaw will be reviewed on “an ongoing and periodic basis” rather than yearly so there is no commitment to review it each year.
“Definitely, I agree with the suggestion. We’ve seen here after two years of COVID that things didn’t happen on an annualized basis. This is a huge improvement. I think it aligns with our intent with this … I fully expect, unfortunately within the municipal world, that we have today, that anything we do in terms of bylaws and rules are going to be a challenge at every level, certainly in the world we live in. This definitely will remove some ammunition for somebody to use to undermine whatever we do,” Devolin said.
Warden Liz Danielsen agreed that the new wording would better follow the county’s intent on the process of reviewing the bylaw.
Moffatt said, “I agree about alignment with the intent, and also perhaps from the opposite side, is it also will allow the county and the public to be able to respond as needed to anything that might pop up that, when things are this big and this new, something could come up that either needs enhancement, refinement, modification, and you don’t want to say, ‘you know, we can only do it once a year,’ so it can be addressed on a more responsive basis, and I think that’s helpful.”
Haliburton County council’s next regular meeting will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 24 at 9 a.m. and can be watched here on their YouTube channel www.youtube.com/channel/UCD5Nnj_j7WcU-OkketJpqqw.