Water Here and Gone

We live in an area with an abundance of wonderful lakes, yet we were reminded this summer of how precious water is.  Local farmers could not harvest sufficient hay, wells went dry and gardens failed. One of our priorities needs to be protecting our lakes and water.

Enforcement

A common, and often legitimate, concern is that laws are not, or only selectively, enforced, including laws to protect water.   Municipally, this usually refers to zoning bylaws and conditions that must be met before a subdivision-condominium can be finalized.

Three current enforcement actions involving lake protection bylaws are of interest.

1) In 2012 the front porch of a cottage on Dog Lake suffered damage from high winds. It is an older cottage within 5 meters of water’s edge on top of a cliff.  The owners replaced the porch with a two story addition without a permit or planning approval.  It is not clear whether the replacement is closer to the lake, but it is certainly bigger.  The owner started construction on other renovations and applied to Council for zoning relief to allow the two story addition. Their appeal was unanimously rejected and a stop work order is in place. The case has been appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board.

2) A 2007 Ontario Municipal Board decision allowed a Sydenham Lake landowner to create three lots but under strict conditions that the mature forest be left to protect the steep shoreline. After the site plan was registered on title, the owner clear-cut down to the lake and moved significant amounts of earth to create a landing. The Township prohibited any development on the lots until full remediation took place.  Satisfactory remediation was done and the development restrictions were lifted in 2016. While remediation cannot return the site to its original state, the delay and cost of remediation are significant penalties.

3) In 2013 a cottage was built within 3 meters of Buck Lake without a permit or zoning relief.  The owner says it was meant be a pump house, but it is clearly not.  The lot could easily accommodate a residential development 30 meters back from the Lake.  The Township ordered the building removed.  The order has been appealed and the case will be in court on September 15, 2016.

These incidents illustrate that enforcement can be done with good bylaws and Council support, but that it does take time and significant resources.

New Planning-Development Manager

One piece of the enforcement puzzle is proper staffing. At the August meeting Council agreed to hire a new Manager of Planning and Development, in part, to ensure that the conditions of approval for subdivisions and condominiums are fully implemented.  At the first September Council meeting I will be supporting a motion to contract consultants to monitor the conditions of approval currently in place until this person is hired.

Who can use the lakes?

As part of the ongoing discussion on lake protection a few people have suggested making it harder for non-lake property owners to access the lakes, possibly even charging a user’s fee.

This summer we went to Tadoussac, in the Saguenay, and had many lovely swims in a local lake.  Over the years I, and many others in the Township, have used lakes and rivers in every province and territory for swimming, boating and fishing.  Except for parks, I have used these lakes and rivers free as part of my rights as a Canadian citizen, and been able to share this resource with local residents.  I would hope that visitors and non-lake residents of South Frontenac would enjoy the same hospitality.

There is a profound obligation to protect these water resources. An obligation that is shared by property owners, visitors, and governments. Municipally we can do our part with good education programs, septic inspections, naturalizing shorelines, facilitating boat washing at ramps, having lake plans, passing and enforcing strong bylaws, respecting controls put in place by other levels of government and applying them to all lake users. This is only a partial list, but if we focus our efforts on making these a reality that would go a long way to protecting this valuable national resource.

Enjoy what remains of summer, go for a nice swim and let me know your opinion on any of the above issues as well as any other concerns you may have.

About Ross Sutherland

nurse, researcher, public health care activist, councillor South Frontenac Township
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