County Coun. Andrea Roberts – during the latest shoreline preservation bylaw meeting – wondered aloud if the contentious document should be left to the next council since nominations are opening May 2 for this fall’s municipal elections.
Her comment was not met with enthusiasm by the majority of councillors so it would appear the bylaw is not going to be shelved pending a new County council which would not really come into effect until December 2022.
I can understand where Roberts is coming from. This bylaw has been five years in the making and it is probably the hardest one councillors have been involved with. They have dealt with the wrath of some members of the community. There have been threats they won’t be re-elected if it is passed. They have read literally hundreds of pages of reports on the file.
However, watching the process unfold – in particular the committee of the whole meetings in January and again on March 9 – progress is being made.
Councillors are raising very good questions on behalf of their constituents and it appears they are trying to find a middle ground so that they can actually pass the bylaw – and in so doing, do a better job of protecting our precious lakes.
The discussion around setbacks was telling in this regard. Councillors had been offered three choices, really. They could go with 30-metres, 20-metres or 10-metres. With a majority of councillors indicating a leaning towards 20 m it showed they are listening to the people who will be impacted by the bylaw. And those who wanted more, 30-metres, or less, 10-metres, said they would be willing to compromise to get the bylaw passed.
There will be some environmentalists in our community who will be outraged if a 20-metre buffer is passed. There will be others who will be maddened if it isn’t 10 or 15 or zero. However, the middle ground seems to be the only way this bylaw will get over the line.
There were numerous other examples of councillors having done their homework. They pressed for clear delineation between major and minor works. They pointed out there is a huge difference between a small subdivision on the water versus a couple wanting to move their fire pit. They ensured a clearer definition of minor landscaping to allay the fears of those wanting to do small works at their cottage. They also ensured that someone can still bring a hand drawing of their plans to planning and building departments, not having to hire a surveyor for these minor, small works.
They are working to clarify what this bylaw is all about – namely ensuring larger developments do not negatively impact our lakes.
They also spent a great deal of time talking about how the bylaw would be implemented since they are acutely aware that the paper is only as good as its follow-through, including policing it.
So, while I get what Roberts is saying, I would encourage the council to stay the course. This bylaw has been five years in the making and they are nearing the finish line. Will all members of the community like the completed bylaw? No. However, like all bylaws, it is not set in stone. The council, as has been discussed, can revisit it in a year after passing it to see if it is working or not and make changes then.
Don’t give up now. You are almost there.