By Chad Ingram
The Township of Algonquin Highlands will order the removal of docks placed by residents on some pieces of public property, the docks in some cases having been installed for many years.
Township councillors decided what should be done in such situations during a lengthy discussion during a Nov. 19 meeting.
A report from township planner Sean O’Callaghan detailed one location at the intersection of Dawson Road and North Shore Road, where, for years, two docks have been placed, reaching out into Maple Lake.”These docks were constructed for the benefit of a group of non-waterfront property owners on Dawson Road,” the report read. “These docks have existed for several years. Staff have discussed this matter with legal counsel and a legal opinion on the matter has been provided and is attached to this report for council consideration.”
The report also indicated concerns regarding liability.
“The construction of these structures on township lands without express approval from the township is not permitted,” it read. “There is significant liability exposure to the township should there be an injury to occur while members of the public use these docks. Concerns with respect to unsafe parking of vehicles near the intersection of Dawson Road and North Shore Road to access the docks has also been raised.”
O’Callaghan’s report laid out two options for council – either having the users enter into a licence of occupation for the continued use of the docks, or for the township to take action to have the docks removed. It should be noted the discussion did not apply to situations where docks have been placed on township-owned shoreline road allowances adjacent to cottages and residences, and that council plans to have a future discussion regarding those situations.
There was some consideration of the concept of a licence of occupation for the continued use of docks in locations such as the intersection of Dawson Road and North Shore Road.
“I wouldn’t feel comfortable voting to have those docks removed today,” said Councillor Jen Dailloux, adding she was open to the idea of exploring a licensing agreement.
However, there was some concern that striking licensing agreements would lead to a trend of more docks in places where they’re not supposed to be.
“I don’t want to see this agreement mushroom into everyone putting in applications,” said Councillor Lisa Barry, adding that if the existing docks were going to be grandfathered by the township, she did not want to see any new docks installed.
Chief administrative officer Angie Bird pointed out that the docks, while long-standing in some instances, were installed without any type of township permission.
“You’re looking at grandfathering an illegal use,” Bird said.
Mayor Carol Moffatt said there was no issue with residents using such areas for swimming, but said the problem for her came with the addition of infrastructure.
“This is not meant to rain on people’s parades,” Moffatt said. “ . . . I understand that if you’ve been using a dock for many, many years, it feels like you’re being punished.”
Moffatt said she had heard from residents about some instances of being told by other residents that they were not permitted to use what is public property, and also pointed out that such locations are not equipped with washrooms or parking areas.
“There are access areas intended for access and day use,” Barry said, using Halls Lake’s Elvin Johnson Park as an example.
Ultimately council decided that the township would order the removal of docks in such locations. The details of how that notification process will work have not yet been finalized.
“There needs to be as robust a notification process that we can use,” said Deputy Mayor Liz Danielsen, noting that it would be a large undertaking to figure out who owns all of the docks.