Dysart not against county in rejecting shoreline bylaw: Fearrey

Haliburton County is on its way toward a fine-tuned version of the contentious Shoreline Preservation Bylaw.

County council held a special meeting to discuss the bylaw Jan. 30. The special meeting was basically for the edification of the new council elected last October. But a number of issues were identified and discussed about the shoreline bylaw’s current draft.

Steve Stone, the county’s director of planning, will return to council in February with an updated proposed bylaw for consideration.

Three of the four lower tier municipalities have accepted the Shoreline Preservation Bylaw. Dysart is the holdout township.

Councillor Murray Fearrey, who is also the mayor of Dysart, said he’s been in Haliburton County for almost 40 years and he’s never seen a council issue as controversial at the Shoreline Preservation Bylaw.

“And I think it’s because it appears that it’s complicated to understand,” he said. “And it appears that it’s kind of infringing on the people’s rights that they traditionally had.”

He said there’s been a lot of miscommunication around the issue. And there’s nothing personal against the county at the heart of why Dysart’s council has yet to accept the legislation.

“I don’t think I’ve ever voted against anything I thought was for the greater good of the county,” Fearrey said.

Coun. Walt McKechnie, Dysart’s deputy mayor, assured Dysart residents that he and the mayor aren’t putting their heads in the sand on the issue. They’ve discussed the bylaw in depth.

“We’re very positive about the direction we might be going in,” McKechnie said.

Warden Liz Danielsen, the mayor of Algonquin Highlands, agreed that the bylaw has spawned the most controversy of any issue she’s experienced. Some of the reaction to the bylaw may be indicative of a sea change in the electorate Canada-wide.

“It has created a reaction that I’ve found rather surprising,” she said. “I didn’t realize that there was such a nasty underbelly to the county.

“It’s there and it seems to me that it’s something that’s pervasive across the country and it’s unfortunate.”

Coun. Bob Carter, the mayor of Minden Hills, said his municipality is just downriver from Dysart. Anything that happens there has bearing on Minden, he said.

“Not every optimal solution is going to be perfect,” he said, and added that nothing will be accomplished if the end goal is perfection.

Carter said the regulations associated with the bylaw is what’s important. That’s all “legal-speak” that typically isn’t of interest to members of the general public.

People, as with other bylaws, are concerned about how the shoreline preservation rules will be applied, he said.

Coun. Cecil Ryall, deputy mayor of Highlands East, said he supports some kind of accreditation or licensing for contractors, something that says they know the ins and outs of the requirements of shoreline preservation.

Likewise, he suggested something similar could be done for property owners on lakefronts. In his own case, Ryall said he built his own home: Everything from the septic system, to electrical, and plumbing.

“There’s a few more inspections you have go through when you’re doing it as a private citizen, but it can be done,” he said.

He would’ve benefited from an instructional course on how to effectively build a house. It could include all the intricacies of legalities that apply to building.

“I’m hoping that when we do this, we set it up so that the average citizen can also get educated and allowed to do the job,” Ryall said.

Fearrey said he’s seen in recent years many contractors based outside the county doing work at local properties.

“It’s not just locals that do this,” Fearrey said.

And that could complicate a certification process.

Danielsen said the shoreline preservation bylaw needs to have teeth regarding its enforcement. Penalties for infractions of other bylaws such as the Shoreline Tree Preservation Bylaw aren’t effective deterrents, she said.

“Wealthy people developing their property don’t care about a $900 fine,” said Danielsen. “They’re more than willing to pay the fee and carry on with what they want to do.”

Stone said that, when it comes to setting ticket fines, the county is at the whim of the judge who is reviewing the offences.

“But, yes. It’s not a large sum for the total destruction of the shoreline,” Stone said of the tree bylaw fine.

Should the violation be severe enough and the shoreline’s destruction dramatic enough, he said the county could go before a judge and ask that the violator be summoned to answer for the infraction.

“In that realm, you do have opportunities for larger sums,” Stone said. “For a private individual, it could be as high as $50,000. For a corporation, it’s $100,000.”

Another avenue to a more effective penalty would be a court-ordered rehabilitation of the shoreline.

Coun. Jennifer Dailloux, deputy mayor of Algonquin Highlands, said the bylaw is a planning instrument. That makes it a document that regulates development.

“It’s something that offers structure around how development goes forward,” Dailloux said. “So, for me, education, incentives, social pressure, all of those softer yet perhaps even more crucial elements, they belong here. But I don’t see them as belonging in this bylaw itself.”

Those objectives would be affixed to a more comprehensive lake health program.

“We can put a lot of emphasis on behaviour change,” she said. “And behaviour change is something that can’t exist in a bylaw.”

Ryall agreed the education component of the bylaw’s promotion to the public needs to go ahead.

Danielsen said more needs to be done to encourage property owners to restore the shoreline properties that have been damaged.

“Those are the sorts of things that needs some creativity,” she said. “We’re all struggling with a budget that’s challenging. It’s my experience that incentives cost money.”


James Matthews, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Haliburton County Echo