Coun. Carol Moffatt said the most important part of any shoreline preservation bylaw is enforcement.
Speaking during a five-hour, line-byline review of the draft during a Jan. 17 meeting, Moffatt said council can do anything it wants but “if we don’t have a bigger and clearly outlined penalty policy and process we will never stop what we want to stop.”
The current draft stipulates that a first offence could attract a part 1 provincial offences act (POA) ticket of $925. On a second and subsequent offences, a fine of not less than $1,000 and not more than $100,000 is recommended.
In addition, the court may order the person to correct the contravention by: rehabilitating the land; removing the fill dumped or placed contrary to the bylaw or permit; restoring the grade of the land to its original condition; removing the topsoil stored on the land; planting or replacing of trees or prohibiting the continuation or repetition of the contravention.
But Moffatt said, “at a $925 fine, that’s a trifling which many consider just the cost of getting what they want.”
She said it is fine to encourage landowners to regenerate and plant “but what’s happening right now, which we have lamented over the past year, is the number of people who are racing. They’re panic projects to get things done before they won’t be allowed to do them.
“So, even if we can’t come to some final answer on what this entire process looks like, we should at the very least find a way to be able to go after those bad actors with a hammer so that those panic projects can’t happen.”
The bylaw will be coming back to council after the review raised more questions than answers during Monday’s meeting.
Moffatt went on to say, “if we want to stop people now, I want someone to tell me … where our hammer is to stop the people who are willingly and knowingly out there clear cutting and hardscaping. It’s happening around us all the time.”
County planning director Steve Stone said if a person, director or officer of a corporation continues there can be a part 3 court summons to pursue much larger fines.
He said the existing bylaw reads $100,000 but if a person were to continue to cut from Monday to Friday, for example, they could be fined an additional $10,000 a day. However, County Warden Liz Danielsen said, “but we need to be prepared to do that, to follow through with that. That’s a direction that has to come from council.
If we’re going to go ahead and try to protect our waterbodies we can’t lay fines unless we have a document in place that lays out what the rules are.” Moffatt added, “have we ever done it, are we going to do it, and how swiftly is council going to have a discussion about entertaining that? You can give someone a $925 fine and they pay it. But they’ve got all their trees cut down for their view and then you make them replant trees. Well, they’ve got 30 years of a good view because they got what they wanted. It’s great to have part one and part three. I get it. It’s not working. People are still doing it.”
Coun. Pat Kennedy said he agreed, and would prefer to see the first fine taken out and replaced with a fine of not less than $1,000 and not more than $100,000.
Coun. Brent Devolin added, “I’m on the record as wanting to have as big a fine for contravention of the existing bylaw that we have and I wouldn’t have spent the last two years of my time if I wasn’t looking for steel-toe boots to deal with these issues.”
Danielsen asked if council was “looking for a hammer when needed” and said during the Zoom meeting she received “nods all around.”