Dysart et al’s mayor and deputy mayor unveiled early details of their township’s shoreline preservation plan during an interview with The Highlander this week.

After declining to delegate authority to the County for its bylaw, Murray Fearrey and Walt McKechnie said council and staff have been working on a made-in-Dysart solution they hope to present to the public in May.

The two said they felt the County bylaw was overly complicated, and questioned whether it was needed, with an existing tree cutting bylaw they believe is underenforced. Fearrey added he could not find another upper-tier government in Ontario that has implemented a shoreline preservation bylaw. He does not believe it is economically feasible because of travel across the Highlands from a Minden base. He also doesn’t like that it’s complaint-driven.

“In the County bylaw, if you had a 1,000 sq. ft. cottage, and you tore it down and built a 4,000 sq. ft. cottage, and you cleared the shoreline in front and nobody complained, there’s no recourse,” Fearrey said.

The County can, and has, fined violators, as well as ordered restoration however it is after the fact.

Fearrey said they will primarily target new lots and teardowns, since they believe these are the most problematic areas. He said people will be required to get a demolition and building permit, and must file a site plan.

“We’re going to be on to you then, because we’re going to ask ‘what are you going to do?’ We’ll go out and take photographs of the trees. We’ll ask them about size, location, the septic, where the stormwater is going to go, where the roof drains are going to go. So, there will be some kind of control,” Fearrey said.

He added the township will offer a course, and invite landscapers, and perhaps environmental engineers, to teach, “the do’s and don’ts of shoreline restoration, so everybody will be on the same page.” He added it would be similar to education around the septic re-inspection program.

“I’m optimistic we’re going to catch way more people this way than we would the other way,” Fearrey said. “When we got boots on the ground, doing these inspections, it’s pretty easy.”

Fearrey said the “extensive education program” would include cottage associations and information with tax bills. He added they will also talk to real estate lawyers, who can, in turn, advise their clients about what is permissible and not.

McKechnie said another key for him is educating property owners who clear cut years ago. He said it “hasn’t ruined the lakes” but would like to see incentives for replanting, whether trees or shrubs. “This thing where we’re going to punish people, I don’t like that attitude.”

Coalition of Haliburton Property Owners’ Association (CHA) chair Paul MacInnes has stated publicly in the past couple of weeks that education is not enough, and legislation is required.

Asked if they have sufficient staff to take on the shoreline preservation plan, Fearrey said, “we’ve talked to the building department and they’re fine.”

The County has approved the hiring of one person for its bylaw.

McKechnie added, “we’ve had many meetings already with our building department and they’re extremely positive. They’re not scared of the workload and if they are, they are going to communicate with Murray and myself and the rest of council, and we’ll address it as we proceed.”

The deputy mayor added they thought long and hard before declining to join the County initiative, and “we’ve spent a lot of quality time with our chief building official and he’s very informed and he’s advising us and helping us with a lot.”

Fearrey said they will have something in place as quickly as the County does. “May we’ll have a draft at least. We’re not sitting on our hands here. We may have to change it, tweak it.”

McKechnie said the plan will also call for a ban on fertilizers within a certain distance of the shoreline.

“We, honest to goodness, are so conscientious about doing the right thing for this community. Our shoreline policy is not going to be perfect right out of the gate, maybe it will never be, but it won’t be because we won’t listen and try to amend or fix it.”