By Nick Bernard
The County of Haliburton has nearly reached the conclusion of their five-year goal of creating a new shoreline preservation bylaw.
The two firms assigned to consult on the bylaw made a presentation summarizing their findings to county council during its Oct. 27 meeting. After discussion, council agreed to hold a special meeting to focus on the final review exclusively, with the date to be determined.
In their presentation, representatives from Hutchinson Environmental Services, and J.L. Richards and Associates distilled their nearly 900-page report into a 15-minute presentation highlighting their experiences and recommendations.
The original goal of the bylaw was, according to the county website, to strengthen existing controls over waterfront development in the County of Haliburton. Following the creation of a draft bylaw, both firms were brought in to review it over a five-month period, leading to the final report presented to county council last Wednesday.
As part of their mandate, established in May, the review and public consultation with the public took a two-phased approach.
The first phase included a preliminary review period, where the firms looked at existing legislation and scientific literature, and collected feedback from residents and other stakeholders through an open house, a survey, and in-person interviews. The two firms presented their findings from that phase to council at their Aug. 25 meeting.
The second phase included a second round of public review, beginning in July with more interviews, another open house, and a second survey period in early October. From there, the firms were able to collate their data, and submit their review to county council shortly ahead of the Oct. 27 meeting.
The presentation detailing the firms’ findings was led by Jason Ferrigan, senior planner at J.L. Richards and Associates.
“We’ve moved heaven and earth to get to you here today with our final report,” Ferrigan told council at the start of the presentation before characterizing the response from the public. “We’ve been met with wonderful feedback and suggestions for places of improvement … I think what we’ve heard from [the residents of Haliburton County] is that people obviously understand, and they value, the lakes and they’re concerned about lake water quality.”
But, he said, there are varying opinions about things like the need for shoreline preservation, as well as details like the buffer zone length between the shoreline and any future developments. Between the options of 10-, 20-, and a 30-metre buffer zone, the firms recommended the existing zone length of 30-metres.
Other findings include:
The recommended areas of application for the bylaw, which the firms suggested extend not only to lakes, rivers, and streams, but also to ponds and other natural features.
What kind of disputes and other issues involving the bylaw can be referred back to council directly.
The method through which residents, business owners, and the county itself can transition to be in compliance with the bylaw. In this case, an application-based approach was recommended.
On the third point, Ferrigan explained: “It was deemed a way for the community to grow into the bylaw requirements over time.”
The report itself is 827-pages long, and includes an exacting explanation for the firms’ methodologies, as well as comments received from the public through the surveys and through social media. The surveys, Ferrigan clarified, were based on the number of responses, and were not representative of any specific majority view.
“It is reflective of those who complete the survey,” Ferrigan said, “but it isn’t necessarily representative.” But all in all, he said, there was “really high engagement” from the community on the matter.
There was a brief discussion among county council following the presentation, with councillors expressing the need for more time to review the substantial report.
Praise was also directed to Ferrigan and the rest of the consultation team, which included Gaurang Khandelwa of J.L. Richards and Associates, and Brent Parsons and Andrea Smith of Hutchinson Environmental Services.
“Thank you for the process,” said Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin. “It’s been a long haul, but I think there’s a lot of information here for ourselves and the public to address.” He further complimented the open and transparent process of collecting public feedback.
“I think you guys have brought a tremendous amount of clarity and some intelligent detail [to the process],” agreed Highlands East Deputy Mayor Cecil Ryall, echoing Devolin’s sentiment.