By James Matthews
Haliburton County’s proposed shoreline bylaw has been changed to include three of the four lower tier municipalities.
Steve Stone, the county’s director of planning, presented the new Shoreline Preservation Bylaw to Minden township council March 9.
After Dysart et al opted not to participate in the county’s Shoreline Preservation Bylaw, upper tier staff returned to the drawing board to write alternative legislation, Stone said.
The alternative is to implement the bylaw in the three geographic municipalities that expressed interest in it. The amended bylaw will be presented to county council, he said.
The bylaw was approved by the county August 2022 and was slated to be enacted April 1.
The new bylaw includes site alteration regulations pertaining to blasting, filling, and grading in a shoreline area in addition to the existing tree protection regulations.
Dysart’s previous council voted against the new bylaw. The previous mayor felt the legislation left more questions than it answered. A contingent of waterfront property owners got behind the township’s opposition to the bylaw.
The group is comprised of more than 300 waterfront residential properties in Dysart and more than 200 owners of waterfront property elsewhere in the Haliburton County.
Property owners have said they’re concerned about the delegation of authority for site alteration from the municipality to the county.
In terms of site alteration, Stone said the legislation governs use of trees and the shoreline land or terrain as far as 20 metres of the waterfront.
“In essence, it prohibits any sort of destruction of trees as well as any alteration of the shoreline unless you are getting a permit,” Stone said.
One of the key differences between the previous Tree Preservation Bylaw and the new shoreline rules is the latter includes protection of wetlands, he said.
“When we go out to implement it, it’s really to assist property owners along the shoreline or that have wetlands to be good stewards of the land,” he said. “I often say to people that good bylaw enforcement starts with the property owner.”
Stone said minor landscaping is exempted from the rules. And, he said, misconception abounds in the county about what’s enforceable.
“I’ve often heard that you can’t even remove weeds from your property within 20 metres (of the waterfront),” he said. “Well, that’s simply not true.
“You’re allowed to maintain and replace existing features on your shoreline.”
Those features include retaining walls at the shoreline. Removing as much as 25 per cent of vegetation without a permit is allowed, he said.
“Ideally, what you’re trying to do is maintain a very natural-appearing shoreline,” Stone said.
Property owners issued a permit by the municipality to build within the 20-metre area are not required to get one from the county as well.
Fines for infractions can be as high as $50,000.
Costs to implement the bylaw will be paid by the county from its reserves for the first seven months. Starting in 2024, the program will be funding proportionately by the participating townships. The fee will be proportionate to the number of shoreline lots in each municipality.
Minden Hills has 4,984 shoreline lots for 25 per cent of the lots among the three participating municipalities. That township would contribute $53,801.88.
Algonquin Highlands has 4,186 shoreline lots for 21 per cent at $45,187.
Highlands East has 3,453 shoreline lots for 17 per cent at $37,274.
Councillor Bob Sisson said Minden Hills doesn’t pay anything for the existing tree preservation bylaw. That posed the question of what the town gets for ponying up more than $50,000.
“You actually will be paying for the services rendered by the planning department of the county for the implementation of this program,” Stone said. “I refer to it as extension work that we provide.”
Part of that is compliance monitoring and enforcement. He likened it to an iceberg. Ten per cent that’s above water is the enforcement. The rest is the cost to administer the program.
No funds are recoverable by the municipality. The $100 fee paid for permits by property owners goes into Haliburton County coffers.
“Generally, our goal for most of county council is that everything become revenue neutral,” Mayor Bob Carter said. “The people who are utilizing the service pay for the service. So I would say that this is the worst-case scenario.”
Coun. Ivan Ingram asked about legal fees in the event a shoreline property owner challenges the township in court.
“That, actually, would be something that would be borne by the county,” Stone said. “If we have to retain a solicitor, that would be something that comes out of the county’s legal budget.”
Coun. Pam Sayne said she has many reservations about the bylaw. She was voted to represent residents in Ward 2, but she also stands up for all of Minden Hills.
“I get calls from all over Minden Hills,” she said. “On this particular file, I’ve been getting calls across the county, and particularly calls from Dysart because the bylaws that they have are not being enforced.
“When we talk about amalgamation of all of our municipalities, this is where we’re seeing there’s going to be a problem.”
Dysart opting out of the bylaw is disappointing, she said, because it shows how municipalities can’t cooperate at the county level.
The money each township pays for implementation should be based on the number of complaints received in that township instead of the number of shoreline properties, she said.
“Whenever you put into place a bylaw that is such a change from what you did in the past, there’s no chance of you ever being able to answer every question and, you know, come up with the absolute perfect theoretical bylaw,” Carter said.