By Chad Ingram
Algonquin Highlands councillors waded into the subject of regulating private docks on public road allowances during an April 15 meeting.
Council received a report from planner Sean O’Callaghan, outlining options for dealing with privately owned docks and staircases located on township-owned shorelines across the road from residences.
One was the creation of a registry where residents would be required to enter into a licence of occupation with the township, purchasing a permit for docks and staircases and providing proof of sufficient insurance. The second was to sell a portion of shoreline road allowances or road allowances to property owners directly across the street. The third was to allow existing structures to remain and be repaired or replaced so long as they maintained the same footprint, but prohibiting the construction of new structures. The fourth was for the township to have all such structures removed.
O’Callahan’s recommendation was for the first option, requiring residents to enter into a licence of occupation with Algonquin Highlands. His report noted the creation and maintenance of a database would require significant staff time, and suggested that if the policy was to be implemented retroactively – that is, applied to all existing docks and stairways – that it would likely require the addition of two staff members, as well as a municipal vehicle.
Councillor Jennifer Dailloux was concerned such a process might pose more work than it would be worth.
“I think compliance is going to be a huge issue,” Dailloux said, emphasizing the amount of work the creation of a registry would require. “… There would be a huge amount of effort for probably limited outcome.”
She suggested that the sale of road allowances might be a better option.
O’Callaghan said that could cause issues for the township when it came to road maintenance work. Mayor Carol Moffatt said if those pieces of property were sold, and changes were made to that property, that in some locations, it may actually undermine the integrity of the road bed. Deputy Mayor Liz Danielsen, who expressed concerns around liability in her support of some kind of policy, was uncomfortable about asking residents to undertake that expense.
O’Callaghan’s report also contained recommendations that permits expire after 20 years, and that when a property is sold, the permit not be transferred to a new owner, requiring the new owner to go through the process. While the planner indicated these were common standards of such policies, councillors were reluctant.
“I think that part will be seen as an unnecessary cash grab,” Moffatt said.
Chief administrative officer Angie Bird said she’d like to check with the township’s solicitor about any potential legal reasons for those requirements.
Councillors acknowledged that in many cases, property owners may not realize they don’t actually own the shoreline land across the road from their home or cottage, and suggested there needed to be a conversation with local realtors about the way such properties are marketed and sold.
“People are being sold property that is not their property,” Moffatt said. “… Most people don’t own the piece of property across the road, and I don’t think they’re told that.”
“A huge part of it is education,” Moffatt said.
Minden Hills council is having similar conversations about the possible creation of a registry system for private docks on township-owned land, and Councillor Lisa Barry said she’d like to see a uniform approach to the issue throughout the county.
“It would be nice if all the townships were sort of on the same page, since there are many lakes that share boundaries,” Barry said.
Councillors deferred any decision for the time being, and a subsequent report from O’Callaghan will come back to council.