Dysart et al council has directed staff to proceed with a proposal that could allow the placement of a private dock on public land along Long Lake, despite township planner Jeff Iles questioning whether the proposal complies with municipal policy.

The request was made by five property owners along Mink Road April 25 to renew an existing license of occupation agreement permitting two shared docks on a stretch of municipal land fronting the lake. Nicolae Neag, representing the property owners, said floating docks had been in place seasonally since 1973. Council approved their placement for the first time last June.

Iles, said a one-year term was issued as the township was in the process of reviewing its Policy 32 – legislation that governs the use of municipal road allowances. That initial agreement expires May 31.

Following that review, Dysart inserted a new clause into the policy stipulating public consultation must take place before any licenses for docks on road allowances leading to water be approved for this latest application last month. Iles was directed to initiate that process by council.

In his report, the planner stated concerns from neighbours and other residents along Long Lake were received last year. The policy, Iles said, states the municipality “will not generally permit use of an unopened road allowance leading to water for any building or structure, including a dock.”

The proposal also contravenes a section of the Official Plan covering lake capacity. The recreational capacity for Long Lake is 53 properties, while Iles noted there are currently 160 properties on the lake. Lakes considered to be over capacity typically can’t have new buildings or structures added to them.

“The proposed docking facilities… may cause aquatic recreational stress on the lake,” Iles wrote.

He conceded there is a stipulation within Policy 32 allowing council to recognize historic use of an unopened road allowance for things such as docks. Owners must prove that a structure has been in place uninterrupted since July 1977 – when the township’s first zoning bylaw came into effect.

Since all the lots in question have changed hands since then, Iles said they didn’t qualify for this exemption.

In his plea to council, Neag said Policy 32 shouldn’t apply to this application given the proposal calls for seasonal floating docks rather than a permanent structure. He said the docks don’t impact the public’s ability to access the water, given the shorefront is approximately 138-feet and the two docks about 30-feet wide each. He noted all backlot property owners in the area are welcome to use the docks.

Mayor Murray Fearrey said he was most concerned about what he perceived to be the low fees the township was charging for these applications. Iles noted the cost was $500.

“It should be 10 times that amount,” Fearrey said, calling on Iles to bring an amended policy back to council for further consideration. “We’ve got several of these coming up, so we need to have a policy that’s right… the fees right now are ridiculous, they’re not covering anything.”

A long-term problem

When Shelley Houser purchased her property along Wonderland Road in 2008, one of the main selling features, she said, was that it highlighted access to Lake Kashagawigamog through a nearby municipal unopened road allowance.

She contends residents haven’t been able to use the site for more than a decade after Dysart approved a series of licenses for a solitary homeowner to maintain a dock in the area. She claims, during the summer, the dock takes up 95 per cent of the water frontage space, forcing others to go elsewhere.

“There’s about 20 backlot owners here who should be able to access the water from that spot, but can’t,” Houser said. “The township has allowed one taxpayer to claim dominion of this public access point. It hardly seems fair that the rest of the population gets about 18 inches of space to get in and out of the water.”

The dock in question was recently re-licensed for a five-year term in 2021. Iles told The Highlander previous licenses had been issued in 2010, 2013 and 2016. His recommendation for the most recent application was to deny it, though he noted council has the power to make exceptions wherever they see fit.

That’s troubling to Houser.

“There’s no accountability here, no transparency. Dysart is not in compliance with its own policies. They’re not acting in the public interest, they are not acting under their code of conduct – which states it should be fair and honest to all residents,” she said. “There’s been no opportunity for other residents in the area to get a license like this.

“I just want to see fairness. The owners of the dock are perfectly entitled to be there, but so are all the other backlot owners. That spot is designated and acknowledged as a public access [road allowance] to the water, but people can’t use the access right now,” she added.