By Chad Ingram
Published June 15 2017
Minden Hills councillors are on the brink of passing numerous amendments to the township’s zoning bylaw but a group of seasonal residents told council last week they believe the process has been rushed and that there has not been sufficient time for residents to digest all of the information.
“The current housekeeping amendments are broad-ranging with a primary focus on providing additional clarity through clear language and consistent definitions; as well as providing new regulations on hunt camps and two-storey accessory structures which were previously unregulated and not permitted respectively” read a report from township planner Ian Clendening.
Changes would allow two-storey accessory structures to have sleeping cabins on the upper floor or half-floor. Such buildings are not to exceed six metres in height and are to be located at least 40 metres from the high-water mark on waterfront properties.
“The 40 metre setback was chosen to ensure that such structures do not become a dominating characteristic of the shoreline areas where they may be permitted” Clendening’s report read. “The number was also chosen to echo the Official Plan direction to limit lot coverage within 40 metres of the shoreline and directing buildings to ensure that building height does not intercept the mature natural tree line when viewed from the water.”
While hunt camps have traditionally been permitted in rural zones on Crown land “upon review planning staff determined that the requirement for the rural zone land to be owned by the Crown is ultra vires (without authority) and the municipality stopped enforcing this requirement” the report read.
Changes would permit hunt camps on rural zone properties with a minimum size of 20.25 hectares.
Amendments would also include changes to building setbacks requiring a three-metre setback from private roads and reducing the front yard setback from 23 to 15 metres for shoreline residential properties.
“Currently through lots on water are severely restricted by means of applying the front yard to both street side and the water side of the lot” Clendening’s report read. “The 15-metre setback is the same as the required front yard for a shoreline residential lot no on the water.”
Other proposed amendments include putting a maximum length on docks at 15 metres into the water from the high-water mark and changes around regulations for parking and loading as well as pits and quarries.
During a public meeting on June 8 seasonal resident Gerry Smith told councillors he had numerous concerns.
“There are quite a few of us here who are working together” said Smith as the hands of many people sitting in the gallery in council chambers went into the air. “We’re also not pitchfork-wielding cottagers. I’m here mostly to talk about process today.”
Smith said that referring to the proposed amendments as “housekeeping” was misleading and that some of the changes being put forward were quite substantial potentially impacting the large investment many have put in their properties.
“I feel like my housekeeper showed up at my door and she or he’s got a jackhammer” he said. “It’s not fair representation.”
While there were advertised public open houses on the zoning bylaw amendments in May Smith said he also felt the township needed to do more to inform seasonal residents about what’s going on.
“And I apologize but a lot of us don’t go to the [township] website” Smith said adding nor do they read local newspapers.
“To really understand all of what Ian is talking about today is difficult” he said requesting that council slow down and give residents a chance to process all the changes being proposed.
The amendments had been scheduled to be passed at a council meeting at the end of the month.
“This is council’s as a whole first look at these amendments” said Councillor Jeanne Anthon. “Council I believe will want some time to deliberate also.”
Anthon added however that she was uncomfortable making changes to the bylaw amendments based on Smith’s presentation.
“I’m not comfortable with changes based on this morning when there are thousands of other residents who didn’t respond” she said.
Councillor Jean Neville didn’t think the township should be holding the document hostage because some seasonal residents were concerned they couldn’t make their cottages look like their Toronto residences.
Particularly when it comes to the proposed changes on two-storey accessory buildings Neville said there are a number of people waiting to get going on projects.
“This is building season and contractors are waiting on that one particular point” she said.
Neville also said it was residents’ job to keep themselves informed.
“It is their responsibility to take part in those open houses.”
Councillor Pam Sayne pointed out that Minden Hills like all other municipalities functions under provincially mandated timelines when it comes to the passage of zoning bylaw amendments.
“We are working under provincial timelines” Sayne said. “The same timelines other communities are working under.”
Sayne also said it was the responsibility of residents to keep themselves updated on publicly accessible township information emphasizing they can subscribe to the township’s email list.
“You’ve really got to get yourself on the list” she said.
Reeve Brent Devolin said he’d like to see staff take residents’ concerns into account.
“I would like to see some plans to deal with some of this” Devolin said.
Like other members of council the reeve said it was up to residents to engage themselves in public processes.
“Sign up for the email list” Devolin said. “Engagement isn’t our responsibility. It’s part of their responsibility.”