Haliburton County residents will soon have more opportunities to share their opinions on the contentious draft Shoreline Preservation Bylaw.

On June 23, County Council approved an extended consultation timeline, proposed by representatives from two external consulting firms tasked with analyzing the draft bylaw. The shoreline bylaw governs development on waterfront properties and has already been scrutinized for more than a year.

In May, the County hired Hutchinson Environmental Sciences Ltd. (HESL) and J.L. Richards & Associates Ltd. (JLR) to review the bylaw and provide options for possible revisions.

Their review was originally slated to wrap up in June. However, it will now include another round of virtual open houses, surveys and multiple one-on-one interviews with municipal staff, conservation authorities, environmental organizations, lake associations and the construction and development business community.

This consultation process is slated for July 7 to 23, with the consultants providing a report to the County in late August. Opportunities to participate will be advertised on the County’s social media channels, websites and in local news outlets.

Consultant: bylaw must suit community

“I’ve had some concerns voiced about the extended timeline,” County Warden Liz Danielsen said. “Because this is such an involved process, I don’t think we can afford to not have the focus on the consultation piece.”

In its current form, the draft bylaw restricts development within 30 metres of the shoreline. While some environmental groups say that the restrictions would improve lake health, others in the construction and landscaping industry say the bylaw is too restrictive.

Consultants and scientific experts from JLR and HESL have already begun researching policy improvements. Their workplan outlines how to date they’ve dived into background research and begun comparing the County’s practices with other municipalities, as well as reviewing existing scientific literature.

According to Jason Ferrigan, of JLR, the revised consultation process adds a new method of acquiring public feedback. One round of interviews and open houses will focus on the background and ideas for the future, the next regards feedback and ideas about the final direction of the bylaw.

“The key to that is understanding you community, and how to adapt your approaches to suit your community,” Ferrigan told council.

Paul MacInnes, chair of the Coalition of Haliburton Property Owners Associations, said in an emailed statement that the coalition is satisfied with HESL and JLR’s approach.

According to executive director Aggie Tose, the Haliburton County Home Builders Association “look[s] forward to working with the review team and with Haliburton County Council as we move forward with a bylaw that is reasonable for property owners and sustains water quality.”

Councillors unanimously supported the request for more public consultation.

“I’m ecstatic with your revised consultation program,” Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin said.

However, there were concerns about how best to truly represent County residents – especially when consulting stakeholders.

Carol Moffatt, mayor of Algonquin Highlands, said she’s heard from landowners who feel their cottage or lake associations don’t represent their interests.

“We need to be cautious around that,” Moffat said. “And make sure we acknowledge and understand lake associations don’t represent all property owners – but we [County council] do.”

Under the current plan, lake associations and cottage groups would be considered stakeholders. That means representatives from each group would be interviewed and consulted throughout the review process.

The external review is set to cost the County $41,605 plus applicable taxes. The extended public consultation process adds approximately four to six weeks to the plan’s original schedule and will add an estimated $13,000 to the final bill.

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