Talks on shoreline bylaw continue
Haliburton County councillors continued to discuss the creation of an enhanced shoreline preservation bylaw during a March 11 committee-of-the-whole meeting, and were scheduled to continue those talks at a special county council meeting on Tuesday, March 17. However, discussions on the draft bylaw have now been postponed amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and county council has cancelled its regular meetings for the time being.
During the March 11 meeting, councillors heard a presentation from Michele Bromley, who owns Boshkung Lake Tree Service, and was speaking on behalf of a group of half a dozen local landscaping companies.
While Haliburton County has had a shoreline tree preservation bylaw – restricting the cutting of trees within 30 metres of the high-water mark – since 2012, the new draft shoreline protection bylaw entails heightened protections including that of all vegetation within the same shoreline band, along with stricter regulation of site alterations, and other restrictions.
“We are not against the shoreline preservation bylaw as like many others in this community, this community is both where we live, and where we conduct our business,” Bromley said. “It’s our home.”
Bromley read aloud a letter from the group of landscape contractors that had been submitted to the county, outlining concerns that the draft bylaw is not comprehensive, overlaps with lower-tier bylaws in a number of areas, thereby causing confusion, and does not address a number of factors that can affect lake health, such as use of fertilizers and pesticides.
“First and foremost the group is fully supportive of a workable and comprehensive shoreline preservation bylaw to ensure the protection and rehabilitation of the water quality of our lakes,” Bromley told councillors. “However, the draft bylaw as presented fails to achieve this goal, in areas is reaching beyond its original intent, and in other areas missing key factors that have significant impact on the water quality of our lakes.”
Bromley said the group is recommending the creation of a working committee for the bylaw that would include members of county council, the landscapers’ group, the Haliburton County Homebuilder’s Association, The Lakelands Association of Realtors, and proponents of the draft bylaw. The Coalition of Haliburton County Property Owners’ Associations has advocated for the creation of such a bylaw, emphasizing the necessity of protecting lake health.
Dysart et al Mayor Andrea Roberts has said she supports the idea of creating a working committee composed of a variety of community stakeholders to review the bylaw, however, Algonquin Highlands Mayor Carol Moffatt said at last week’s meeting that she’s strongly opposed to that idea.
“I have very serious concerns about a committee,” Moffatt said. “ A committee can never represent everyone.” While the CHA is advocating for the bylaw, “There’s even division within lake associations, from the feedback I’ve received,” Moffatt continued, adding that various pieces of legislation would also touch on the work of a committee, and that the good intentions of forming a committee could create more work and consume more time in the long run.
Councillors have agreed there will be an extended public input process on the bylaw, likely to include a number of public meetings as well as more online engagement opportunities, and Moffatt said she’d be supportive of hiring a third party to provide consultation and produce results, “so that it’s arm’s length.”
There were thoroughly mixed feelings among councillors on the creation of a committee. Highlands East Mayor Dave Burton was supportive. Dysart et al Deputy Mayor Pat Kennedy thought any committee should only include councillors. Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin thought that work should fall to the county’s planning committee, which includes all of county council and will soon include a couple of members of the public as well. Algonquin Highlands Deputy Mayor and County Warden Liz Danielsen shared Moffatt’s concerns that the creation of any committee could not adequately represent all stakeholders.
While during a late February council meeting councillors had agreed they would conduct an internal review of the draft bylaw during the March 11 committee-of-the-whole meeting, some had not come prepared to do so, or thought it was not worthwhile at this point in time, or that it would consume too much time in an already busy agenda for the day.
“At some point we need to discuss the content and details of the bylaw, discuss it thoroughly,” Danielsen said.
Councillors agreed they would call a special meeting on Tuesday, March 17 to delve into the details of the bylaw, as well as decide what the extended public feedback process on the draft bylaw will look like. There was a previous online feedback process that garnered hundreds of comments.
As for the draft bylaw not dealing with fertilizers and pesticides, county planner Charlsey White said they had not been included because council had requested they not be. Danielsen said this request had been made because councillors thought this regulation would be difficult to enforce, but that perhaps it could be reconsidered.
While the draft bylaw does include aspects covered in other lower-tier bylaws, White said those bylaws cover the entire township, whereas the draft shoreline bylaw deals only with the 30-metre band around water bodies. There is a legislative mechanism by which the lower-tier townships can delegate authority to the county within this zone.