By Elizabeth Bate
The municipality of Highlands East held three public meetings in two days to answer questions and address concerns regarding proposed changes to its zoning by-laws Aug. 20 and 21.
The first of the three meetings took place at the Lloyd Watson Centre in Wilberforce on the evening of Aug. 20 and was sparsely attended with just a few councillors and municipal staff on hand to discuss the new zoning maps and regulations with municipal planner Chris Jones.
Jones said the proposed changes to the bylaws are still just drafts and the final document will be hammered out in the next few months with a presentation made to council hopefully before the end of the year.
The changes to the bylaws will be the first in almost a decade with the last changes being made in 2008 to the original 2005 document.
While the changes aren’t substantive Jones said the amendments are meant to reflect what is considered reasonable for the character of Highlands East.
“It’s intended to be a function of reasonableness” he said. “It’s trying to find ways that lets people live their lives and be compatible.”
Changes include adjustments to the setback requirements of docks from 4.5 metres to 7.5 metres and limiting properties to one dock only. Boathouses will be restricted and not allowed on shoreline properties at all while sea containers have been added as an allowable structure for storage on a property provided it meets all the other setbacks and requirements.
Jones says boathouses were disallowed because the setback requirements for the units was already 20 metres or 66 feet which made the structures something else entirely.
“If it’s 66 feet from the water it’s a garage” Jones said. “I mean I can put a boat in it but if it’s not near the water is it a boathouse?”
The amendment will serve to clean up the definition of permitted structures for storage and the housing of vehicles including boats.
Other amendments have prohibited the building or use of a trailer truck bus coach for human habitation or the building of an accessory structure or building for human habitation. The amendments do not expressly prohibit a guest house but the draft changes so far prohibit cooking facilities within the unit. Jones also said a conversation led to a question about whether plumbing facilities should be prohibited in guest houses as well.
“There’s a core issue environmentally speaking virtually all of our dwellings rely on private services” Jones said.
In the case of plumbing the private services Jones refers to are septic systems. He said the ideas reflect an acknowledgement that strain on these systems needs to be limited.
Changes also include the prohibition of outdoor storage of dismantled or partially dismantled motor vehicles trailers or trailer parts. This means car restoration projects will be required to move into a garage and off the driveway or front lawn.
“The zoning bylaw is not trying to take away a person’s hobby or a person’s right to enjoy their property but is it right and does it suit the particular character of that neighbourhood?” said Jones.
The second and third public meetings were held at the Robert McCausland Community Centre in Gooderham and the Cardiff Community Centre on Aug. 21.
Jones a municipal planner for more than 20 years said there will be more discussions and he will be working with council to finalize the changes before a draft is voted on.
“You talk to the local council about it you look at what they’ve been doing historically and work with that” he said.
The draft bylaw changes can be viewed on the municipality’s website at www.highlandseast.ca.