Does the County of Haliburton need a new shoreline preservation bylaw?

Yes.

From Jan. 1 to Aug. 31, 2020, the County of Haliburton has received 114 shoreline tree preservation bylaw property complaints. That’s more than double the concerns from last year.

To be crystal clear, the County has a shoreline tree preservation bylaw. However, staff and councillors are now working on a new, far more reaching, shoreline preservation bylaw.

According to the County, every complaint has been followed up with the owner.

We’ve been told staff have completed 199 site visits. Some sites require return visits. There have been 17 stop work orders. There have been five tickets issued. There are currently 20 sites where staff are working with owners to remediate damage and replant. And, there are 15 sites where remediation and tree planting is completed. There have been 11 forestry permits issued.

The County has a contract with Kestrel Forestry to provide bylaw enforcement for the shoreline tree preservation bylaw. Going forward, staff have been asked to provide ideas in the draft 2021 budget on the impacts of this new bylaw and what that looks like will be determined by the final content of a bylaw, should it come into effect.

The folks at the County would not say that people are rushing out to alter their shorelines because they know this new bylaw is in the works. However, they think that due to COVID, more people are around and paying attention to what their neighbours are doing. In addition, more people have time at their property to do work they may have put off.

Regardless, the numbers are high and should be a concern in a County that relies heavily on the health of its lakes for a thriving economy.

Is the County going about this new bylaw in the right way?

That is a bit more questionable. Michele Bromley of Boshkung Tree Service doesn’t think so. In a letter to the editor in today’s Highlander, she said they only found out about the agenda item on Sept. 7 for the Sept. 9 meeting and it was not handled in the way they said they expected it to be. She said they didn’t anticipate councillors to go through it line-by-line.

County Coun. Andrea Roberts said it’s probably the most controversial thing that the County has put forward in its current term of office. As such, the councillors have to make sure they are fully engaged with the Haliburton County Home Builders Association and the group of six landscaping businesses that have banded together to fight for what they believe should be a more sensible bylaw.

While councillors had foreshadowed a line-by-line review, and could argue their approach should have been anticipated, they must communicate with the affected parties beyond what would be considered normal protocol. Otherwise, they open themselves up to criticisms of a lack of transparency.

What the builders and landscapers need to know, or be told, is that the line-by-line review will deliver a final draft bylaw, which will then be presented to the public for its input. It is not the end of the process. Nevertheless, one should never presume that the public knows its way around the machinations of municipal government. For the most part, it does not.

So, should the County have a new shoreline preservation bylaw? Yes. Could County councillors and staff do a better job of working with the HCHBA and landscapers? Yes.

To be crystal clear once again: an updated draft of the bylaw is expected at the next council meeting Sept. 23. We encourage all interested parties to log onto the Haliburton Civic Web site and follow the prompts to find the meeting agenda. Fair warning: sometimes they are only posted a few days before the meeting. If you have any thoughts or concerns, contact your councillors. That’s why you elected them.

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