Haliburton’s construction sector is raising alarm bells over a draft shoreline preservation bylaw. However, County councillors have assured them their concerns will be heard.

County council discussed the bylaw during a committee of the whole meeting Feb. 12, with its chambers packed with onlookers from the construction industry. Staff had gathered feedback and worked on the bylaw for several months, aiming to protect shoreline and lake health by restricting development within 30 metres.

Brown + Co contract manager Andrew Brown said the bylaw in its current form would severely hamper developments and puts new lakefront properties at a massive disadvantage to existing ones when it comes to lake views. He added although he understands people want less clear-cutting, he thinks existing bylaws can cover that, but are not enforced.

“The construction industry, Haliburton’s largest employer, is seriously worried about the delays, restrictions and extra fees,” Brown said. “Not to mention the amount of people forced to break the law because they can not afford the expense to see the lake, the reason they moved to Haliburton.”

Council did not make any decisions about the bylaw, voting to receive it for information and have staff propose a public consultation process. The bylaw itself impacts all lands within 30 metres of the high-water mark of a body of water. Within that area, unless it falls under an exemption or a permit is granted, it states nobody shall remove, destroy or injure natural vegetation.

It also calls for those spaces to be kept clean of litter and refuse, restricts any site alterations, restricts tree removal, as well as other limitations for noise and odour. It also specifies certain types of work would not require permits, including snow removal, installing a driveway or pathway, removing invasive species, clearing obstacles such as fallen trees and culvert cleaning.

The bylaw includes fees for application, permits and an extension fee, suggested at 50 per cent of the original permit. The draft states that permits will expire after 90 days if site alteration activities have not commenced.

The exact fee costs are not yet listed, but Coun. Patrick Kennedy questioned the extension fee.

“I almost feel that’s a cash grab,” he said.

Director of planning Charlsey White suggested fees be waived for the first year of the bylaw to help get compliance.

Councillors brought up other concerns, such as the enforcement challenges the bylaw could pose and the possible need for additional staff. They expressed the need for a good public consultation process.

“I would rather not have any rush to put something in place until we’re absolutely sure we’ve heard from everybody and understand the concerns,” Coun. Carol Moffatt said.

Haliburton County Home Builders Association vice-president Glenn Evans said the executive was pleased by the outcome of the meeting.

“The process seemed to be almost well underway and predetermined,” Evans said. “It was nice to understand there was more room for public input.”

He said the association is starting a task force to examine the bylaw. He added more should be done to properties which have already damaged natural shorelines and the task force will seek a middle ground between protecting the environment and economic interests.

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