By Chad Ingram
Published April 6 2017
Veteran planner Greg Bishop gave Minden Hills councillors a thorough history lesson on shoreline road allowances during their March 30 meeting.
Bishop made his presentation in response to a staff report from the township’s planner recommending a drastic increase in the price the township charges residents to purchase unopened shoreline road allowances.
The current total cash deposit is $1500 – including a non-refundable $500 administration fee and a partial purchase price for the first 150 feet of frontage at $750 or $5 per foot.
Each additional foot has been sold at a cost of $2.
The proposed changes would bring the total cash deposit to $5250 increasing the partial purchase price for the first 150 feet to $4500 or $30 per foot with the cost for each additional foot increased to $20.
The $500 administration fee would remain the same.
“We are no longer consistent with surrounding municipalities” planner Ian Clendening told councillors when he presented the report in February adding the new proposed fees more accurately reflected the value of waterfront property. “We are disposing of municipal lands. This is an exhaustible resource. That money will have to be made up (once shoreline road allowances are all sold off).”
The township makes about $15000 a year through the sale of unopened shoreline road allowances but using averaged information from other townships Clendening’s report suggested the value of these road allowance sales should be closer to $75000.
“I have taken a personal interest in your latest process with respect to the increase of fees for the closing and purchasing of original shore road allowances” Bishop wrote in a report to council and staff. “I am not really making the presentation to either encourage or discourage an increase in costs to any applicant it is more so around how these strips of lands were originally created and what their original intent was at the time of the original surveys and the history behind the evolution of processes that have happened over the years.”
The creation of lots concessions and roadways in Haliburton County dates back to the mid-19th century.
“As we are all probably aware the original surveys in Haliburton County were completed in the 1860s” Bishop’s report reads. “There are 13 different types of survey structures in Ontario and we are in the 1000-acre section structure where have original allowances for road between every second concession in a north-south direction and every fifth lot in an east-west direction. If these road allowances intersected with a lake and sometimes a navigable waterway a shore road allowance would then be created along the lake or river sometimes engulfing the whole lake but in some instances only traversing the shorter portion of the lake.”
While roads could be successfully built around lake shores in areas south of the county with its position at the foot the Canadian Shield this was not the case within Haliburton.
“We’re stuck this middle ground where it didn’t work too well” Bishop told councillors.
The county’s topography means that along with unopened shoreline road allowances there are also many unopened side road allowances intersecting properties throughout the area.
“Not only did it not work on water it didn’t work on land either” said Bishop.
In many areas of the province control of these unopened roadways were eventually ceded from the Crown to municipalities.
Before the Ontario Planning Act was introduced in 1970 there was basically no regard for these unopened road allowances.
“There were no official plans zoning no control over building structures on road allowances” Bishop said. “The attitude towards road allowances right to 1970 was we’re never going to use them.”
Bishop said in his opinion referring to unopened road allowances as “linear parks” a phrase that had been used in a township staff report is not apt.
“A road allowance is not a linear park” he said. “It’s an unopened highway.”
“It is my opinion that prior to the Planning Act shore road allowances were simply not on anyone’s radar including local surveyors local municipalities and even the Provincial Crown” Bishop’s report concludes. “As the value of land keeps increasing the focus on these shore road allowances has changed over time. Irrelevant of value I still come back to the fact they are shore road allowances and not linear parks. The focus should remain the same in that they could be purchased by the upland owners certainly given the situation that the valuation of lakefront lots through the assessment process does not recognize whether there is an abutting shore road allowance in front of a lakefront parcel. To treat shoreline road allowances in any other way should cause a revolt amongst your constituents with respect to the whole basis of how lakefront lots have been assessed. Although the position can be taken that lakefront lots that abut a shore road allowance in fact do not have any frontage or access to the waterbody in front of them there are not lakefront owners at all throws the whole assessment of value of these properties into turmoil.”
Councillors thanked Bishop for his presentation.
Reeve Brent Devolin said once the county’s official plan update (currently underway) is complete Minden Hills’ official plan would be opened up for review.
“Obviously matters like this will need careful consideration” Devolin said. “We inherited a situation . . . this changes the perspective a bit.”
The reeve said the historical context in his mind cements the notion that road allowances are not parkland.
Councillor Jeanne Anthon suggested that Bishop take his presentation to next year’s Rural Ontario Municipal Association conference and Councillor Pam Sayne suggested a copy of his report should be kept at the Haliburton County Public Library.
Bishop’s full report can be found in March 30 Minden Hills council agenda on the Haliburton County website.