By Chad Ingram
A new shoreline preservation bylaw for Haliburton County should be ready for final approval by council by October, county councillors heard during a June 23 online meeting.
Council received an introductory presentation from representatives of Hutchinson Environmental Sciences Ltd. and engineering and planning firm J.J. Richards and Associates, the companies that have been hired by the county for the creation of the bylaw.
The county had begun meetings regarding the drafting of a bylaw aimed at protecting lake health by restricting site alteration and the removal of vegetation near water bodies in early 2020. However, there was significant controversy and public criticism of a draft bylaw – particularly a recommended setback of 30-metres for site alternation and vegetation removal – as well as the in-house process the county had undertaken, and in January of this year, council decided to abandon that process and instead hire a consultant for the creation of a draft bylaw.
The consultants have been in discussions with county staff, and last week provided council with an introduction of the team who will be responsible for the project – with extensive education and experience in environmental sciences, planning and public policy – as well as the proposed work plan and public engagement strategy.
The consultants will review the draft bylaw the county had created, conduct a scientific literature review, research successful practices in other municipalities, and conduct a public consultation process. An extended public consultation process, approved by council, will lengthen the project’s timeline by four to six weeks, and increase its price tag by approximately $13,000. The initial contract was for $41,605.
That public consultation process will take place in two rounds. A first round will address questions of “What?” and “Why?” when it comes to the bylaw, and include a series of virtual public open houses, surveys (both paper and electronic) and one-on-one interviews with municipal staff and stakeholders.
A first draft report will then be produced, which Jason Ferrigan, a senior planner for J.J. Richards, expected would happen in August. A second round of public consultations will then take place, addressing the question of “How?” the bylaw will work, with a final report expected to come back to county council in September or October.
“The advantage to this is that it will give council the ability to understand stakeholder perspectives on the draft bylaw prior to its final consideration by council,” read correspondence from Ferrigan.
Councillors were in favour of the consultation framework.
“I’m ecstatic with your visit consultation program, it kind of, will leave no stone unturned,” said Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin. “… I’m confident that you’ll help us with your balanced approach to have the best outcome that we can.”
“Given the amount of controversy associated with this project, I can’t see us saying no to as much consultation at every level of this process as we can possibly do,” said Algonquin Highlands Deputy Mayor and County Warden Liz Danielsen.
“The extended time and the next round is absolutely the way we should go on this issue,” said Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt.
The consultants had drafted a list of stakeholders from whom to solicit feedback, Moffatt questioning some of the organizations on that list, including lake associations.
“We know there’s been a lot of angst and disruption among the associations and their memberships and those who are not members,” Moffatt said. “Associations don’t represent all property owners, and that’s a concern that has been made very clear and loudly to us over the last year.”
Moffatt pointed to dozens of emails councillors have received from residents of Kennisis Lake, indicating the lake association doesn’t speak for them. “I think we need to just be cautious around that, and make sure that we acknowledge and fully understand that lake associations don’t represent all property owners, but we do,” she said. “… If an association doesn’t have a signed constitution saying, we can bind the membership, then what an executive says, no offence, doesn’t really matter, because they don’t have the authority to bind their membership. So, I’m struggling with that point of constitutional work within lake associations. How do we hear from lake associations, knowing that they duly represent their paid members, and how do we also hear from people, and ensure we hear from people, who do not belong to any organization or association?”
Moffatt also pointed to the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce being included on the stakeholder list, pointing out it is also a membership-based organization, and questioned the inclusion of the Crowe Valley Conservation Authority, whose jurisdiction includes some of Highlands East. The rest of the county is not represented by any conservation authority and Moffatt suggested that more locally-based groups, such as the Coalition for Equitable Water Flow, for instance, may have more insight.
“I really appreciate Councillor Moffatt’s questions, because the questions really do kind of get to the heart of building a good engagement and consultation strategy, and the key to that is sort of understanding your community, and how to adapt your approaches to reflect your community,” Ferrigan said.
Ferrigan said he thought input from the conservation