Building an elephant
By Chad Ingram
Haliburton County council chambers were full last week, more than full, to hear two delegations related to the county’s draft enhanced shoreline preservation bylaw. Residents not only filled the chairs of the chambers’ public gallery, but were lining the walls and spilling out into hallways. It was an extremely rare sight for a room where the balance of public attendees is typically constituted by two or three members of the local media. The audience last week included numerous representatives of lake associations, members of the construction industry including contractors and landscapers, and municipal councillors from throughout the county.
It’s become abundantly clear in the past few weeks that the county’s shoreline preservation bylaw is a contentious one, and council plans to go well above and beyond what it is required to do to ensure that all voices are heard. However, toward the end of the conversation last week, Highlands East Deputy Mayor Cec Ryall made a prudent comment, which was that council needed to be careful of “building an elephant,” that is, creating an overly complicated process wherein focus on the original goal may become lost.
As Coalition of Haliburton Property Owners’ Associations board chairman Paul MacInnes and county staff noted last week, the county has facilitated an online public feedback process, and hundreds of comments regarding the draft bylaw have been received on that forum. MacInnes and County Warden Liz Danielsen both noted that public conversations regarding the bylaw have been ongoing for more than a year, and that the intention to create such a bylaw has been reported on numerous times by local media.
“So for anyone to suggest that we’ve been working under the cloak of darkness or we haven’t been trying to get the message out is not fair,” Danielsen said.
Still, it’s become very obvious that many in the community were not aware of the draft bylaw, and county councillors have made it clear they intend to provide ample opportunity for more public input. While the specifics of that process have yet to be established, based on council’s discussion last week, it will involve additional online opportunities, as well as what seems likely to be a series of physical public meetings. There will also be consideration of a sub-committee or working group, and it was also suggested that group perhaps act as a panel during those public meetings.
It’s clear this process will take a number of months, and it’s important that the creation and management of a complicated public engagement process not deter from the point of the process itself.