County council is planning to take its time to “get it right” on a draft shoreline preservation bylaw after concerned associations overflowed its chambers Feb. 25.

The Coalition of Haliburton Property Owners’ Associations (CHA) and the Haliburton County Home Builders Association (HCHBA) came out in force for their respective delegations to council on the draft bylaw, which would restrict development and activity within 30 metres of shorelines. Council voted to undertake another line-by-line review of the bylaw, engage citizens online and in public meetings, as well as consider a working committee or group to guide the process.  

With more than 40 people in the room, Danielsen said it was the fullest she could recall council chambers ever being in the past decade. She said although it was initially hoped the bylaw could be finished before the summer, it is clear consultations would have to last longer than that based on input.

“We acknowledge that there’s urgency there, but we also have to get it right,” she said.

The bylaw disallows any removal, destruction or injury to natural vegetation within the 30-metre buffer zone, unless the activity is under an exemption or a permit is granted.

CHA board chair Paul MacInnes detailed the science of how the natural vegetation is vital to lake health by helping prevent contaminants from getting into the water. Failing to protect lake health leads to algae blooms, which can plummet property values, he said.

“There will be costs to this bylaw, absolutely,” MacInnes said. “But it’s our belief that the costs of this bylaw will pale, absolutely pale, in comparison to the costs if we don’t protect our lakes.”

HCHBA vice president Glenn Evans said his association is not adversarial to the CHA’s position. He said the bylaw needs to be more moderate in its limitations on shoreline development than it is currently. He added properties that harm shoreline vegetation with development before the bylaw is in place need to take some responsibility too.

“We believe that we can work together to protect our lakes. We believe there is room for mechanisms, policies to be put in place,” he said. “But we feel the bylaw is a little bit far-reaching.”

Council discussed options for public consultation and the need to start meetings before the busy summer season. The County previously conducted an online survey on the bylaw which attracted hundreds of responses, though Coun. Carol Moffatt said many did not know of it.

Danielsen said the bylaw should not have been too surprising to people, given it was a topic in 26 different municipal meetings throughout the County and lower tiers and had multiple newspaper articles about it.

“For anyone to suggest that we’ve been working under cloak of darkness and we haven’t been trying to get the message out is not fair,” she said.

Danielsen said council also needs to sort out the costs of making the bylaw possible. The County has set aside $50,000 in this year’s budget as start-up funding for the bylaw.  

“There is going to be a rather extraordinary cost, because I’m not interested in us developing a bylaw we can’t enforce or manage,” she said.

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