By James Matthews (Local Journalism Initiative reporter)
Dysart et al will get a legal opinion on what the implications will be in retaining authority under the shoreline preservation bylaw.
Steve Stone, Haliburton County’s director of planning, provided council during its Sept. 27 regular meeting with an overview of the new bylaw.
And Stone sought authority for the bylaw’s implementation be taken away from Dysart and given to the county. Actually, that’s how it’s to be for all county municipalities with waterfront land.
The bylaw was approved by the county on Aug. 24 and will be in effect April 1, 2023.
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. The bylaw applies to the entire county but only affects properties which abut a shoreline or contain a prohibited area.
Dysart Mayor Andrea Roberts and Deputy Mayor Pat Kennedy voted against the new bylaw when it was discussed at the county level.
“I still feel there is quite a few unanswered questions,” she said.
A large contingent of waterfront property owners say they’re proud Dysart’s representatives on county council voted against the bylaw in August.
“We urge Dysart et al council to reject delegation of authority for site alteration (under Section 142 (3) of the Municipal Act) at this time,” the Haliburton Waterfront Owners said in its letter to council.
The collection of Dysart residents who belong to the group sent town council a detailed letter outlining why the municipality should maintain its authority in the face of the new 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.
According to the group’s letter to council, the shoreline preservation bylaw has spurred concern over the last 18 months among many waterfront property owners about the delegation of authority for site alteration from the municipality to the county.
The Haliburton Waterfront Owners grew out of those efforts. Members of the groups recognized common concerns and hoped that, by working together, their input would have more weight.
Now the group boasts members on Bitter Lake, Drag Lake, Grass Lake, Haliburton Lake, Lake Kashagawigamog, Kennisis Lake, Little Kennisis Lake, Miskwabi Lake, Pelaw Lake, Pine Lake, Redstone Lake, Tedious Lake, and lakes in the other lower-tier municipalities.
“Few Haliburton property owners are more concerned about or have a greater investment in the health of our lakes than we do,” the group wrote in its letter dated Sept. 19.
The best way to ensure lake health is to educate property owners on the value of natural shorelines and the risks of malfunctioning septic systems and fertilizers near lakes.
The effort to ensure healthy lakes isn’t served by “cumbersome regulations.” And the bylaw is not yet ready and not yet right, the group’s letter read.
The bylaw is an issue under active discussion among candidates in the current municipal election campaign period. Property owners believe the bylaw is marred by numerous flaws and uncertainties and that could yield undesirable results.
“Voters should be allowed to have their say on this and other election issues in their choice of elected representatives,” the collective said.
They say the bylaw will do nothing to restore compromised shoreline. Waterfront property owners should be encouraged to re-naturalize as much of their shorelines as possible and municipalities should make available information on how to do so.
A property owner who owns their shoreline road allowance with a level lot that was cleared prior to the bylaw could pave the entire width of their lot for 20 meters above the high-water mark.
“We presume that even the strongest advocates of the shoreline bylaw would not find this acceptable,” the letter states.
A local municipality has jurisdiction over road allowances. Over time, with the tacit approval of lower-tier municipalities and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests, adjacent property owners have been allowed to use these lands essentially as their own.
But the new county bylaw makes shoreline road allowances owned by the municipality Prohibited Areas where no person may remove native vegetation or a tree or undertake any site alteration without a permit.
“Thus it may be that a property owner who does not own the shoreline road allowance but previously cleared a small path to the waterfront through the shoreline road allowance may now not be allowed to the natural vegetation growing on this path without applying to the county or lower-tier municipality for a permit.
In their lengthy missive to Dysart council, which can be read along with other agenda items on the municipality’s website, the Haliburton Waterfront Owners state a well-researched case as to why towns should maintain authority over their lakefront land.
“In being asked to delegate authority for this bylaw, Dysart is effectively being asked to cede control over its shoreline road allowances (except for building permits, or the sale of the road allowances but not how they are used/managed/cared for),” the group said.
“This will alter long-standing practices and understandings with property owners and will likely require new processes at the lower-tier level.”