Dysart’s chief building official is looking for public input as he drafts a site alteration bylaw he says will enhance protection and encourage the preservation of natural shorelines across the municipality.

Addressing council April 25, Karl Korpela said the new legislation, which he hopes to table later this month, will work with the County’s tree preservation bylaw to establish clear restrictions on what property owners can and cannot do on land fronting water and environmentally protected (EP) areas.

This comes months after council refused to sign on to the County’s new shoreline preservation bylaw, with mayor Murray Fearrey and deputy mayor Walt McKechnie telling The Highlander in a previous interview they believed a made-in-Dysart solution was the best way forward.

Outlining his current plans, Korpela is pushing to establish restrictions and permissions in the new bylaw that people can follow, rather than including permit requirements.

“Staff don’t have the time to deal with permits for site alterations,” Korpela told council.

He said the legislation would include penalties for non-compliance, but that a heavy emphasis would be placed on educating people about the new rules first. He wants to establish set fines for consistent, or flagrant abusers, which he believes should be high enough to act as a significant deterrent to would-be rulebreakers. He’s also suggesting a clause for restraining orders, which would only be used in “very serious matters” that required legal intervention.

Regarding shoreline setbacks, Korpela said “we’re not going to debate the science.” He noted Dysart’s existing zoning bylaw requires a buffer zone of between 20 and 30 metres for most new development on the water, hinting he would be looking to maintain that.

That bylaw does have some exemptions. Structures such as drop awnings, clothes poles, flagpoles, gates, garden trellises, retaining walls, stairways and walkways, boardwalks, decks and patios up to 20 square metres, fences less than 1.2 metres high, and plumbing fixtures such as water intake lines are all allowed within the buffer zone.

The County’s tree preservation bylaw also allows for the clearing of a five-metrewide path to provide access to the water; clearing for approved new construction (with a building permit) and five metres around those structures; and clearing for any approved accessory structures.

Korpela noted these allowances do not apply to lands adjacent to any recognized fish habitat areas and spawning grounds.

He didn’t outline precisely what this new bylaw would allow, saying he wanted to receive feedback from the public before making a final recommendation to council. A public meeting was held at the West Guilford Community Centre May 3, while responses to an online questionnaire, posted on the municipal website, are being accepted until May 10.

Korpela openly wondered if the township should include specific requirements around retaining walls, slope stabilization, erosion control measures and the type of equipment and machinery permitted for use on a shore front.

“I’m looking for feedback on all of this… and more… to see if it needs to be in the bylaw.”

The building official said this new bylaw would greatly improve protections of EP zones.

“There’s a lot of EP zones in our municipality, but we currently have no regulations for site alteration within them,” he said. “So, anything we do is going to be better than what we currently have.”

Still work to be done

Leora Berman, an environmental technologist and COO of non-profit The Land Between, said she was pleased the township was engaging with the community, noting she has high hopes for the new bylaw.

She did highlight some areas of concern, largely surrounding the definition of EP zones, and what she perceives to be two key accountability and transparency issues.

“I want to know who the township is going to use as experts to determine fish habitats… because the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry doesn’t have that capacity anymore,” Berman said, noting she would be willing to partner with the municipality.

“Also, who will be making the decisions over applications for adjustments [to the bylaw for work along the shoreline]? Is it council? Will it be a committee? I think that needs to be clarified.

“There needs to be more clarity provided on EP zones. They are defined in the provincial policy statement… as being significant wildlife habitats, flood zone hazard lands. They are clearly defined, and Dysart is missing that whole piece,” she added.

Fearrey said he was pleased to see Korpela’s draft include several “encouragements” for things like leaving existing natural shorelines undisturbed or restoring them back to a natural state.

“Based on conversations I’ve had, I think the best thing to do is to keep this thing general – go out to the public, get feedback and massage this into something that works,” he said. “I don’t want something that’s going to be onerous… the biggest thing is to make this as practical as we can.”