The County of Haliburton is restarting its efforts to create a new shoreline protection bylaw. County committee of the whole reviewed the draft bylaw and discussed a public consultation process Sept. 9.

More than 60 people watched the livestream of the meeting, as the controversial document re-emerged after the County shelved it for months due to the pandemic.

It seeks to limit development within 30 metres of shorelines to protect natural vegetation and, by extension, protect lake health. Council members also discussed the need to address many properties doing major construction along the shoreline this summer, severely damaging them but not technically breaking rules.

But groups pushed back on the bylaw in February. Both the Haliburton County Home Builders Association and a group of six landscaping businesses have said though they support the bylaw’s principles, the draft is too far-reaching.

“It’s probably the most controversial thing that the County has put forward,” deputy warden Andrea Roberts said.

The committee of the whole reviewed the bylaw section-by-section, asking for adjustments. They also agreed to communicate more about the plan, including online town halls for different sections.

But there was some disagreement between councillors over whether the push against parts of the bylaw was going too far. It started over the section disallowing the destruction of any natural vegetation unless specifically exempted in the bylaw.

Coun. Carol Moffatt questioned the broadness of that and said it is extremely problematic.

“How far is too far?” Moffatt said. “The definition of vegetation is making me really nervous. Where are we crossing over from responsible maintenance to treating people like children?”

Director of planning Charlsey White said there are many exemptions and they will still allow people to maintain their yards.

“This is really the crux of the bylaw and if we’re not considering keeping this language in, the rest of the bylaw falls apart,” she said, adding they may need to adjust the language to indicate they will not nitpick at landowners.

Coun. Patrick Kennedy agreed with Moffatt’s critique and questioned whether the protection zone should be reduced to 15 or 20 metres.

“I’m really frustrated with this bylaw the more research I do,” Kennedy said. “We’re trying to paint such a broad paintbrush approach that we may not be achieving the goals we really want to.”

Coun. Brent Devolin pushed back and said though the bylaw will need work, he is “all in” on it.

“I don’t kid myself that this is going to be easy,” Devolin said. “But water quality and natural habitat is the underpinning of the economy of Haliburton County, full stop. I see no other route.”

Warden Liz Danielsen said it is going to be a difficult process going through and communicating the bylaw, but it is necessary.

Moffatt replied that she felt it is important to ask questions and fully understand the implications of the bylaw before sending it out for public consultation.

“There is not a person whose face is on this screen who doesn’t want something to move forward,” she said during the online meeting. “We’re supposed to ask questions and understand what we’re all in for.”

An updated draft of the bylaw is expected at the next council meeting Sept. 23. The current draft is available via haliburton. civicweb.net and the County has left the meeting up on its Youtube channel.

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