A proposed “future visioning” by Tiny Deputy Mayor Steffen Walma would see the municipality acquiring beach access for contiguous walkways over the course of generations ahead.
“I’ve heard some concerns already about this being a ‘communist movement’,” Walma said with a laugh, “but the concept is actually compensation.”
Within Walma’s two-part acquisition by attrition motion “to create a harmonious beach experience” involved the contentious suggestion that as ownership of shoreline properties is transferred, through sale or inheritance, that a first right of refusal policy would allow the municipality to compensate the new owners while acquiring their beachfront area.
“So the next generation of ownership are going to be able to purchase the property that much cheaper because the municipality has changed it and compensated the existing land owner already. And in 60, 70, 80… 100 years, who knows,” Walma chuckled, “we now have a walkway along the beautiful west shores of Tiny Township.”
Swift rebuke came from Coun. Gibb Wishart, who admitted to having purchased 1200-feet of shoreline property, and compared it as “favouring those who want to walk, versus those who want to own.”
“I’m sure MPAC (Municipal Property Assessment Corporation) won’t agree, but you’re making a pretty brave suggestion,” said Wishart.
“Planning does it all the time, when you want to make a severance somewhere, they exact their pound of flesh by taking so many feet along the road for widening the road in the future.
"So if you go along with that kind of philosophy, I’m not certain how easy it will be for council to sell that to the great number of people who own, in their mind and in fact, to the water’s edge,” concluded Wishart.
Walma said that his concept would allow future generations to better enjoy the township's beaches.
"Do we want people to be able to traverse the beach?" Walma asked. "This is the only way I know how to do that, by either acquiring land along our parks or easement rights as people move.”
Coun. Cindy Hastings warily encouraged Walma for “out-of-the-box thinking”, but admitted she needed time to digest the proposal. Mayor George Cornell also asked for time to digest, stating that he supported the principle of the motion if not the execution.
Coun. Tony Mintoff asked if the conversation would be better addressed through the mayor’s task force, to which Cornell agreed. The motion was then voted down 1-4 with Walma as the sole yea.
Walma’s proposed motion was taken as two discussions, with the other focusing on allowing the public access to the municipal maps, which had been designated as internal use only for staff.
Currently, staff is allowed to answer the public’s questions regarding specific areas like public beaches and access while giving directions, but are unable to make a copy or even show the manual’s contents to external eyes.
Hastings commented that the public are often dissuaded from using the beaches because they don’t know where to go, and supported the motion to provide information to those wanting to know.
Additionally, Mintoff supported the principle of making beaches more visible, as the delineation program to provide exact specifications for township properties was currently underway, and providing mapping would be an extension of that project despite the huge cost impact it could entail.
Cornell was also in favour “of helping the public to understand municipally-owned property as we understand it,” but expressed concern over disputed private properties that could be unknowingly labelled wrong within the manual.
Staff pitched in with the specifications of the internal use only manual.
Public works director Tim Leitch said that the majority of beaches in the manual were clearly defined, but that some titles would require legal definitions.
CAO Robert Lamb stated, “at the moment it’s been created strictly as an internal-style document which could help us as a quick-reference guide, but it’s not an essential bible of ‘our property / not our property.'"
Walma responded that many contentious issues involving beaches are a result of the municipality not having oversight over property definitions, and that the public having the mapping on-hand would make for a valuable tool.
However, Mintoff said that unless precise locations were available, then “is it 10 feet this way or 20 feet that way, how would we know” scenarios would create more problems.
“We always have this discussion for delineation come budget time,” Walma responded, “and we do nothing. We put $25,000 in this year, and the original recommendation was $100,000. And that’s not the first time that’s happened in the last six years. If we don’t make it a priority then that model doesn’t work.”
The motion to have staff look into making the mapping of municipally owned lands, specifically beaches, available to the public through the township website, and provide information to council at an upcoming meeting was carried unanimously.
Archives of council meetings are available to view on Tiny township’s YouTube channel.
Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca