By Chad Ingram
The County of Haliburton will embark on a public input process for its draft shoreline protection bylaw, that process including a virtual public meeting amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In a nearly four-hour-long meeting on Nov. 23, county councillors continued work on the draft bylaw, which aims to preserve the quality of lake health in the county, sifting through the document section by section. The bylaw would restrict site alteration and the removal of vegetation within 30 metres of the high-water mark around waterbodies, and has stirred some controversy in the county among waterfront property owners, as well as members of the community’s construction and landscaping industries.
During Monday’s meeting, councillors also provided comments to staff on accompanying documents, a sort of Coles Notes version of the bylaw providing a list of what kinds of work residents would and would not require a permit for, and a shoreline self-assessment tool.
The next step in the process will be a public consultation. As the ongoing pandemic will not allow for a traditional public meeting, staff will organize a virtual public meeting, prospectively scheduled for late January, as well as solicit public feedback through an online survey tool such as Bang The Table, and the county’s website. County planner Charlsey White said that staff members would also be available to speak with residents who do not use online communication.
A timeline laid out by White in her staff report had public consultation taking place throughout December and January, delegation of authority from the lower-tier townships to the county taking place in February, final approval of the bylaw by council in March, hiring of staff in April, and enforcement beginning in mid-April.
“I have some concerns around the timeline,” said Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt, adding she wasn’t sure it provided enough time for council to consider what could be a large amount of public feedback.
White said it had been her understanding from previous meetings that council wanted the bylaw enforceable by summer of 2021, agreed the timeline was ambitious, and said it could be changed if council so wished.
“I just want to make sure that we give ourselves ample time to be able to receive, review and … ask for more or different information, from any of those input opportunities,” Moffatt said, suggesting that council may require a separate meeting following the public meeting to discuss changes based on the feedback.
“I want to make sure that we don’t end up saying, ‘Yeah, we’re on a timeline here, so we’re just gonna get going.’ How much time are we allowing ourselves to review any of that input? Because that’s the whole point.”
“If we get enough concerns or valid cautions brought to us during the process, then it would come back to us, and we would have to review it and consider it and make decisions as we go forward,” said Algonquin Highlands Deputy Mayor and County Warden Liz Danielsen. “Whatever time it takes. There are going to be things we hear and agree with, there will be things that we hear and disagree with, or can’t do anything about for legislative reasons, so we’ll have to wade through it all.”