/County council votes to strengthen shoreline protection bylaw

County council votes to strengthen shoreline protection bylaw

By Stephen Petrick

Plan to hire monitoring team and start lake health program

Haliburton County has moved to create a more comprehensive shoreline protection bylaw that puts new limitations on what can be built or removed near important waterways, which are vital to the region’s identity and health.

A vote that passed at the April 27 virtual county council meeting allows the county to take several new steps to address the brewing community dilemma that has pitted environmentalists against individual property owners for several months.

The vote allows the county to move forward with a plan to recruit “a monitoring and bylaw enforcement” team, subject to job descriptions written by county council. The team would survey whether property owners are doing anything that could damage waterways.

It also calls for staff to write a proposal for a “lake health” program that would involve local organizations that could review other water-related bylaws within the county and release information to the public.

The vote passed after more than an hour of discussion and the release of a thorough report by county planning director Steve Stone. It outlined the context leading up to the vote, as this bylaw has been in the works for months.

“I think this was a really good discussion,” said Warden Liz Danielson, after the vote passed. She added that she thought a next step for the plan would be to include provisions for how septic inspections should work.

Councillor Pat Kennedy also endorsed it, saying, “we have a wealth of information here. We need to pull it together to see what we’ve got.”

The county began the process of creating a shoreline preservation bylaw in 2017, out of worries that when structures or other developments are built too close to water, they can damage ecosystems and the overall health of water. The bylaw is ultimately about protecting the shorelines of Haliburton County, which are important to the area’s lifestyles, tourism industry and overall charm.

The vote that passed doesn’t end the process, but asks staff to “continue refinement” of the draft bylaw.

The bylaw, as it stands now, is 21 pages long and it meticulously lays out what property owners need to do to comply with the law.

For instance it says, “no person shall undertake any site alteration,” without a proper permit.

It also says, “no person shall injure or destroy a tree, or remove native vegetation” without a permit.

The bylaw also gives details on how to obtain permits to work near water, noting that a shoreline permit can be given out when the planning director “is satisfied that the activities and works proposed in the application will not result in: i) the removal of more than 25 per cent of trees in the shoreline; ii) flooding or ponding; iii) erosion; iv) blockage or siltation of a body of water; v) increased surface water flow to adjacent lands; vi) increased surface water to adjacent bodies of water; vii) a detrimental effect on any tree; and, viii) a contravention of the intent of this By-law.”

Environmental issues, such as this, often draw attention in Haliburton County.

In January, a group called Turtle Guardians held a protest outside a Gelert Road address where the property owner was believed to be filling in important wetlands.

Although the activity stopped, several concerned citizens wrote to Dysart et al council, calling on the municipal government to better enforce protection of wetlands.