The County of Haliburton has a new draft shoreline preservation bylaw to consider.

At an Oct. 27 meeting, council received its consultant’s draft bylaw and voted to hold a special meeting to discuss it, and chart the next step towards passing a final bylaw. The new draft bylaw comes after nearly five months of community consultation, stakeholder interviews and two sets of surveys and virtual town hall meetings. “This is a landmark thing within Haliburton County,” said Minden Hills Mayor Brent Devolin.

Council is now tasked with discussing the draft and may make changes before it is voted on. “Regardless of what we decide, it’s not going to make everybody happy,” Devolin added. J.L Richards (JLR) and Hutchinson Environmental Services Ltd. (HESL) recommend keeping the shoreline buffer at 30-metres in any future shoreline preservation bylaw.

HESL’s scientific review suggests that will remove up to 85 per cent of pollutants, 85 per cent of sediment and 75 per cent of nitrogen from entering lakes. The draft bylaw allows “minor landscaping” which includes the creation of gardens, maintenance and replacement of pathways and driveways up to five-metres wide, and beaches, as well as the removal of topsoil and up to 25 per cent of trees distributed throughout the shoreline.

It would also strengthen the existing tree preservation bylaw by requiring permit approval “to any future tree removal or site alteration in the shoreline buffer zone selected by County Council.” It prohibits removing native vegetation including trees larger than five-centimetres in width, tree trimming and non-emergency removal of trees and stumps, and the placing of fill or altering the steepness of a shoreline more than a certain amount.

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Also added is the protection of ponds and wetlands, which would be classified as bodies of water. The new draft includes allowances for a “lesser shoreline” when a property’s lot depth or site characteristics make it impossible to stick to the 30-metre rule. Applications would include a legal description of a site, a project schedule, and a shoreline plan drawn to scale which includes estimated body of water locations and high watermarks, as well as approximate topography and natural and developed feature locations.

The application process, said J.L Richards planner Jason Ferrigan, was “regarded as a way for the community to grow into the bylaw over time” as well as expanding the matters that can be referred to council such as when a permit is denied or delayed. The consultants suggest a transition period, where applicants would be free to submit for a year, with a simplified permit system, before moving to the full application system.

Those requirements contrast the previous stipulations of the council’s draft bylaw, which required applicants to submit exact locations of all vegetation, trees and shrubs, and calculations regarding the property’s stormwater controls. Many who submitted feedback to consultants claimed those requirements were overly onerous and expensive.

The fine for breaking the bylaw is relaxed: consultants propose $925 tickets for firsttime offenders and second offence fines maxing out at $100,000.

The consultants also provided a short summary overview of the bylaw, often including shorter sentences that do not require prior knowledge of terms common in the legal and planning communities.

Ferrigan described it as the “Coles Notes” version of the bylaw.

Council members noted how the draft bylaw process has sparked anger amongst the community throughout the bylaw process. “The divisiveness and infighting amongst friends and neighbours, I’ve never seen anything like it. And I hope it never happens again because it’s been exceedingly disappointing” Moffatt said.

The 827-page final report includes 470 pages of correspondence from Haliburton County residents and organizations, expressing their views on shoreline preservation initiatives. “Unless you’ve been asleep under a rock,” said Devolin, “for any individual or party who has wanted to have input in this, this has been a good and open and transparent process.”

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