Many waterfront property owners in the Township of North Kawartha have been watching the Dock Issue unfold, so we write now to share an update. Please note that this is my interpretation as an observer and it is possible that I may have missed something in my notes - the actual minutes will be released on the township website when they have been completed.
Yesterday I attended the Council Meeting of the Council of the Township of North Kawartha. The agenda item of concern was the dock bylaw issue. The meeting started with the Planner, Chris Jones, providing an overview of his most recent report to Council in which he outlined three options. He made it clear that he favoured option one, which was essentially passing the bylaw draft that he had presented to Council in February. He did not recommend option two which was eliminate regulation. He conceded that option three was a variation of a proposal of a local dockbuilder that was a balance of regulation and community comfort.
In his report, Mr Jones made it clear that that properties within the Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park were exempt though he did acknowledge that the Park Superintendent is on record as saying that there could be a time in the future that the Park adapts the dock regulations, Mr Jones advised that the Park would likely do this by embedding it in the Park Management Plan.
Council’s discussion was all about combining option one and three. Council was concerned that option three left a potential for a 3,300 square foot dock so they were compelled to include an area maximum. The Mayor spoke of concern that someone might elect to build a 3,300 square food dock to use as a landing facility for a helicopter and there would be nothing that the Town could do about it. Observers became frustrated with this discussion, as a dockbuilder, we have never built or ever seen a dock such size and the cost would be prohibitive. The initial number was proposed by Councillor Miszuk was 800 sq ft but translated to metric, and to round it off, Council all agreed they were comfortable with 807 sq ft inclusive of the ramp.
One swim raft is allowed, and after an extensive discussion about whether inflatables would be allowed in addition to the swim raft and whether they should be called an inflatable raft or an inflatable toy – they decided that one swim raft plus inflatable rafts would be allowed with inflatable rafts being defined as something that would extend to more than just a raft. The excess of the discussion about inflatables became surprising for observers, regulating summer fun was becoming too much. This concept was not lost on Council and several Councillors made it clear that there should be no reference to them in the Bylaws. Planner Chris Jones advised that by omission they would be not allowed and wanted to add that one was allowed. Council again directed him to not put a number on inflatables.
There was also extensive discussion about the acceptable size of a canopy and that the spirit of the term canopy in the bylaws refers to sun shade protection and not specifically boat protection though that would also be deemed a canopy. The maximum size in the February draft of the bylaws was 200 sq feet but it became clear that this was inadequate for newer boats and that 300 sq ft would be necessary. The size that Council finally agreed to was 300 square feet.
There was concern raised about a restriction that does not allow ramps to be used to tie up boats, this was removed. The spirit of this restriction was to distinguish a dock from a ramp.
There was recognition that an 8’ ramp allowance was appropriate and the Planner was directed to make this change.
Though Council initially leaned on option three with concern for the risk of a 3,300 square foot dock resulting, they then said they wanted to combine it with option one so that there was a maximum square footage, to eliminate the risk of a 3,300 square foot dock. Council must have raised this risk over a dozen times though they all conceded it was unlikely and none were aware of an existing dock so large.
In the end, when Council returned and passed the bylaw at 3pm, I had in my hands, the document that had the original draft from Feb 25, as well as the June 15th memo of options, as well as the bylaw quickly drafted on June 21st by Chris Jones during the lunch break. I was the only observer in attendance at 3pm when the meeting reconvened. Though observers were silenced in the morning, the mayor advised concern for completing the full Council agenda compelled him to not accept input/questions from observers. Being the only observer at 3pm, I raised my hand in hopes that Council would recognize that taking my questions would not lead to a long string of others, the mayor agreed to take my questions. My first was clarification, it was appearing that they were about to pass the bylaw but I wasn’t sure, I asked if this was the case. Yes, the mayor confirmed that this was likely within the next five minutes. I was actually confused what was being passed. I’m not sure if the document handed out moments before, crafted by Chris Jones within the past hour, was the full document or just the revisions. I wasn’t sure if it was primarily option 3 with a cap on size or if it was option 1 with linear feet limitations added. I did not ask, but I did ask if the public would be given opportunity to see a clean copy of what was being considered before a decision – but added if the intent was to finalize within five minutes, this wasn’t likely. This was confirmed by the mayor. This was disappointing as I was confused what was being passed and the public therefore would not be in a position to comment on the final piece either.
My second question was concern for the timing of when this bylaw would take effect. This was raised before the break by Councillor Miszuk before the lunch break. I advised Council that, as a dockbuilder, we have active orders right now, some where the design is complete and deposit taken, others mid construction, others that are complete and awaiting delivery and installation. I was concerned with …Do those dock orders that don’t comply have to be restarted with a new design? If we have a half built dock, there could be significant cost issues to start over. Does the concept of ‘grandfathering’ apply to docks actually in water or also docks in construction or firm orders with a firm design and deposit? The deputy mayor suggested that if there was a deposit it should apply. The mayor deferred to the Chief Building Inspector who said it would be docks in the water but deferred to the Planner Chris Jones. Chris Jones advised that the date it would be effective would be June 21 if the bylaw survives the appeal period. If it doesn’t then it would not be effective June 21. The Mayor recognized the dilemma in needing to know what to do with current orders. I told Council that there needs to be an ‘education period’ for the public and to give the dockbuilders an opportunity to tell clients as of a certain date, these are the new rules. There was no way for us do that for active orders as the new rules only became known on June 21. The Mayor advised that he does understand but a legal opinion would be needed.
The meeting ended and to be honest, I’m not totally sure what was passed as the meeting was live when the document was passed around and there was no time to absorb it. I believe it was simply defaulted back to the Feb 25th draft bylaw with changes that were directed to the Planner by Council during the morning session of the meeting.
Attached is a digital copy of the final bylaw that was passed sent to me by the Town Clerk.
The Town Clerk must provide notice to the public within 15 days, this will outline the process for appeal. There are then 20 days from the date that the bylaw is passed to appeal the decision to the OMB.