Claude Brown Road launch proposal sunk
A boat launch the Bob Lake Association was proposing for an unopened shoreline road allowance off Claude Brown Road will not be constructed.
Members of the association had visited township councillors in December with their pitch, which is the construction of a concrete-slab boat launch on a road allowance along Claude Brown Road.
In 2016, the owner of the Bob Lake property that houses a long-used boat launch barricaded the launch to the public. For many years, there was a misunderstanding, including by Minden Hills township, that the launch was publicly owned.
Association members told councillors that, according to their estimations, the project at Claude Brown Road should cost $30,000, and require relatively little maintenance thereafter.
However, a report from Minden Hills planner Ian Clendening noted a number of concerns with the project, including ones around traffic safety and environmental degradation associated with the proposed project. Also, in Clendening’s estimation, the project would actually carry a price tag of more than $180,000, his report showed.
The association responded to Clendening’s report with a letter to council.
“Needless to say, we have a significant number of concerns with its content that must be heard by council,” the letter read. “It is unfortunate that major elements of this report were not shared in any form of draft communications with the BLA. Going forward we hope to work in a more collaborative fashion with the township. The BLA firmly believes, in contrast to many of the conclusions within the report, that our original proposal is the best solution available to restore public boat launch access for Bob Lake. It provides the lowest cost option as it does not require any land acquisition. It’s the only option clear of public right-of-way issues, and is by far the most environmentally friendly option given it will avoid the inevitable construction of many future private launches.”
That correspondence also contained some revisions to the proposal.
During a Feb. 22 meeting, Clendening explained, in great detail, to council the conclusions in his report, and provided a thorough breakdown of his cost estimate.
“The proposal in large part has not changed substantially,” Clendening told councillors regarding revisions to the proposal. “In large part, the issues have not been addressed.”
One of the key concerns for Clendening is traffic safety.
“For traffic flow and safety reasons, a boat launch design which is bisected by a road is not preferred,” a new report from Clendening reads. “This design had existed on a previous boat launch adjacent to Horseshoe Lake Road north of Bethel Road but the launch was ultimately decommissioned for safety reasons.”
Clendening told councillors that a person reversing into the launch would be focused on the boat and trailer, rather than the traffic he or she may be impeding. This was an issue for the township’s insurance carrier, he noted.
The planner also noted that east of the proposed boat launch location, Claude Brown Road becomes private, meaning that some turning or parked vehicles may end up encroaching on private lands.
“That is a matter of trespass,” Clendening said.
He also said an existing shed on a neighbouring residential property would be located about 15 feet from the proposed turnaround area.
“That speaks to the impact on abutting property owners,” Clendening said.
On the environmental front, Clendening said the construction of a launch would require denuding the shoreline of trees and vegetation. He said the removal of this vegetative buffer would exacerbate environmental problems, such as increased shoreline erosion and runoff.
Furthermore, Clendening said council needed to consider the Planning Act, and noted the area is zoned shoreline residential.
“At a minimum, we would be looking at getting a minor variance,” he told councillors. “I don’t see how you could make this into something that is representative of good planning.”
In explaining the disparity between his project cost estimate and that of the association, among other things, Clendening said the association had not included items such as legal, planning and land acquisition costs in its estimate.
Clendening had allotted $85,000 for those items, representing more than half the discrepancy between the estimates.
“That is a real cost if the township was to proceed with this,” he told councillors.
“I wish there was a simple solution,” said Mayor Brent Devolin, indicating that a six-figure price tag was too much and that while a solution for Bob Lake residents was not out of the picture, this particular proposal, in his opinion, was.
“Are people on this council interested in trying to resolve this?” asked Councillor Pam Sayne, whose ward includes Bob Lake. Sayne indicated there was no point in continuing discussions if there wasn’t the political will to do something.
Councillor Jeanne Anthon responded that the amount of time councillors have spent discussing the issue during much of the past two years indicated council was interested in finding a solution.
“At no time did anybody say, I don’t want to deal with this anymore,” Anthon said.
“I’ve invested more than a year and half of my time with this,” Devolin said. “With this particular one [proposal], we have exhausted this.”
Sayne said she’d like to see representatives from the township sit down with representatives from the lake association.
“It’s liability, liability, liability,” Deputy Mayor Cheryl Murdoch said in her opposition to the proposal.
Anthon said she thought for the township to proceed with the proposal as presented would be “political suicide and financial suicide by the municipality.”
“We’re asking more of this boat launch than we ask of others,” Sayne said, adding there were plenty of older and less safe boat launches operating in the township. Sayne said she wanted to see something done.
“But Councillor Sayne, half an hour ago, you didn’t like the 8.5 per cent [tax levy] increase,” said Councillor Lisa Schell, referring to a budget discussion earlier in the meeting. “This would be another two and a half.”
Anthon said that comparing requirements for a new launch to existing launches was not apt, using the Building Code as an analogy.
“There’s no way that we would build today the way we built 40 years ago,” she said.