BLUEWATER – A months-long process of developing a new bylaw to allow for the installation of shoreline protection on municipal properties along the lakeshore when requested by adjacent private property owners came to a close after councillors unanimously agreed to the new policy during the July 12 regular council meeting.
The new policy was developed after the municipality received public feedback about a previously proposed policy that was created in response to several residents seeking to install shoreline protection on municipal properties to protect their own properties. It outlines a process which includes the applications being brought before councillors multiple times before being accepted. The process also requires the approval of the Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority, the Ministry of Natural Resources, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
According to a report presented to councillors which summarized the feedback received from residents through emails and a survey about the initially proposed policy, there were divisions among those who answered.
Sixty-one per cent of those who responded said they were “comfortable” with shoreline protection being installed on municipal properties, and 45 per cent said residents should be allowed to install shoreline protection, with 30 per cent saying it should only be allowed under certain conditions.
Public opinion about the initially proposed draft policy was almost evenly split, with 51 per cent saying they thought it was too restrictive, while 49 per cent said it wasn’t. Due to the split in opinion, staff suggested councillors pass a policy similar to the one initially proposed with changes to better clarify sections as well as address some common concerns.
“I appreciate the fact that council has to look at these all these individuals when they come, and we’ll have the chance to vote it up or down at the time,” said Deputy Mayor Jim Fergusson. “I’m still going to be hard on it because I think that under some extreme circumstances it’s appropriate, but most of the time you should keep your protection on your own property.”
Other council notes
Beach access stair policy
Councillors also discussed a policy which would allow local associations to repair beach access stairs on municipal properties, though ultimately deferred a decision on the policy until the next council meeting.
The proposed policy comes after the municipality decided to maintain some, but not all, of its existing beach access stairs in 2021.
“The municipality does not have the budget to repair every set of stairs along our shoreline,” wrote manager of development services Mike Rolph in a report to council.
Replying to concerns from councillors about including an engineering report as part of an agreement to allow for repairs to be done on beach stairs, Rolph said an engineer’s report is required to avoid issues with potential bank slumping, which he said has particularly been worse with higher water levels.
“At that point a geotechnical engineer should be involved to indicate whether that bank is even stable where they’re going to support those stairs,” said Rolph. “Staff doesn’t have the expertise nor the tools to do that kind of assessment on the bank.”
Mayor Paul Klopp voiced his support for the removal of an engineering report in the policy due to the additional costs that would be required to be paid by applicants.
“Putting myself in their shoes, I would look and ask why you’re making me waste this money,” said Klopp. “If it falls down, it falls down.”