Lakes the losers

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County council’s special meeting Monday on the shoreline preservation bylaw was disappointing on a number of fronts.

Dysart mayor Murray Fearrey and deputy mayor Walt McKechnie reiterated their intention to withdraw their township’s support of the bylaw. The previous council had already refused to delegate authority to the County.

A majority of Dysart council would have to officially endorse that plan of action. Pat Casey, Nancy Wood-Roberts, Tammy Donaldson, Carm Sawyer and Barry Boice could still have an impact on the outcome of Dysart’s buy-in, but we doubt they’ll disagree with Fearrey or McKechnie.

It’s disheartening because it would have been nice to have countywide consensus, regardless if it’s the County or lower-tier townships who put the boots to the ground on this bylaw. With Dysart having the most shoreline properties in the County, the teeth have been blunted somewhat.

Fearrey and McKechnie have their reasons.

Fearrey told the Jan. 30 meeting the bylaw does nothing to address historic, damaging activities on our shorelines, such as lawns to the water. He’s worried people doing basic things such as weeding on shoreline road allowances will, by bylaw, need permission. He’d prefer more public education, enhanced septic inspection programs, and real fines for violators, not the $930 wealthy landowners are now laughing at as they decimate natural flora and fauna. He thinks it’s too complicated and expensive and feels building and bylaw departments at the townships can take care of the problem.

Fearrey suggested policing could happen at the building permit stage. But, can it? Shoreline naturalization has never been the purview of building departments. And, with all due respect, surely all of those historic attacks on Dysart’s naturalized shorelines happened during the 40 years that Fearrey was the head of council. What will change now? He and McKechnie alluded to some plans they may have, but didn’t share them with their County colleagues, a bit like school kids covering their homework.

Don’t take it personal, Fearrey said. We love and want to protect our lakes. We’re just speaking up for the people of Dysart, McKechnie chimed in.

And, perhaps, that is part of the age-old problem. Mayors and deputy mayors of Algonquin Highlands, Highlands East, and Minden Hills are ready to move the needle. Now, they’re a bit scared it’s going to cost them more if Dysart opts out. Despite a services delivery review, I sniff some silos building back up. And that is a shame.

Coun. Jennifer Dailloux said the bylaw is very much a regulatory piece, and council can use a raft of other measures to address Fearrey and McKechnie’s concerns. She had hope.

Coun. Bob Carter publicly expressed the same disappointment as well.

After five years, countless hours of staff time, and a great deal of money, County councillors are now going to have to repeal the bylaw, and go back to their own councils to see if they remain onboard. Chances of a bylaw being online for the start of this building season seem slim. And, so, the bad apples will continue to flaunt the unwritten rules and regulations. The real losers from Monday’s meeting are our 600-plus lakes.