Tiny Township residents gave council and staff a lot to wade through regarding beach construction.
Two deputations to Tiny council recently spoke from the head and from the heart regarding controversial beachfront boathouses and docks in the municipality. However, their opponent wasn’t any specific property owner; it was the upcoming draft zoning bylaw.
At a recent committee of the whole meeting, two residents of Tiny Township presented their deputations for why shoreline structures, such as boathouses and docks, should be given extra scrutiny within the draft zoning bylaw (ZBL) which is slated to be finalized later in the year.
Sean Miskimins, co-founder of the Beach Rights Facebook group, addressed council for his time. Speaking in terms of nostalgia and images, Miskimins offered scenarios where the beautiful landscape of the shores of Georgian Bay were subject to “permanent destruction and desecration” by council’s decision to allow unnecessary shoreline structures.
“We know the township has made strides to ensure that Tiny does not become Wasaga North, but allowing these structures is allowing us to become Muskoka South,” stated Miskimins.
Previously, Miskimins had been active in raising awareness to the construction of a highwater retaining wall located at 32 Tiny Beaches Road South, adjacent to otherwise unobstructed pedestrian access of Balm Beach on either side, but which has seen beach users having to walk through water to get past.
Points raised by Miskimins overlapped with the second deputant, Woodland Beach resident and professional land-use planner Ed Newhook, who provided various impacts of shoreline structure allowances, and recommendations to fix the problem.
“Echoing Sean’s points previously made in the deputations,” began Newhook, “docks and boathouses are not an appropriate use along every shoreline in Tiny. And I’m not sure the expectation of anyone is that: ‘yes, we will be putting them on every shore’. But the fear that I have is that the ZBL, once it enables this… it can be used everywhere in Tiny.”
Between the two deputation, topics addressed included: structures along Georgian Bay in areas of flat, shallow sands and not steep terrain or deep water access; liability ownership between municipality or the federal and provincial governments should injury occur on due to a structure; short-staffed government agencies; land value reduction through neighbouring visual displeasure; regulations regarding floating accommodations; and environmental concerns.
Newhook asked: “Who would build on a shallow beach? The reality is that people may use that – the free rein that they would be given in a ZBL as it is right now – to build a dock out that would become that de facto fence.”
While Miskimins asked council what it would take to not allow shoreline structures on unnecessary beachfronts, Newhook offered suggestions including: shoreline assessment; consideration for seasonal structures; and the reminder of a suggested mayor's task force as put forward by former council member Tony Mintoff last year.
Following the deputations, a discussion of the draft ZBL was provided by planning director Shawn Persaud as well as Wes Crown of MHBC Planning. Although other issues were raised concerning resident input prior to the conversation, Persaud and Crown took time to address Miskimins and Newhook’s deputations.
Crown explained that Tiny’s current ZBL regulating construction and development in the township permits boathouses and docks within the municipality. The new ZBL wouldn’t introduce new permitted land uses, but would instead refine regulations for proposed boathouses.
“There was a fairly seminal court decision in 2015 called Glaspell v. Ontario (ONSC 3965),” Crown said regarding a Township of North Kawartha case. ‘It really established the principle that municipalities are obligated to regulate shoreline structures – both docks and boathouses – and the Ministry of Natural Resources is obligated to regulate the construction and development of shoreline structures.
Coun. Cindy Hastings requested clarification that the municipality could enact provisions but not prohibit boathouses and docks in certain areas.
Crown replied that detailed regulations were in effect for boathouses, and that docks were permitted in the municipality, but he understood what Hastings was implying and chose his words carefully.
“I think you would need to have a very robust planning justification to change those land-use permissions, and to down-zone lands within the municipality to prohibit one or the other of those shoreline structures,” explained Crown with certain emphasis. “Neither your Official Plan nor your draft ZBL, in my opinion, would provide sufficient support and justification for that significant removal of permissions and restrictions on those types of shoreline structures at this time.
“In my opinion, you would likely need to do a very detailed shoreline study to identify those reaches or stretches of the shoreline that may be appropriate for docks, or require docks based on the symmetry of the lake, the depth of the water, and all those sorts of things,” Crown added.
Mayor George Cornell inquired to restrictions on seasonal construction of shoreline structures, which would minimize several impacts if implemented, according to Newhook.
Crown responded that it was a frequently recurring topic needing further inspection; government regulations specify standards, while the building code doesn’t differentiate between seasonal or permanent. Minimum regulations by the municipality were contained in the draft ZBL to ensure installed docks were erected within the frontage, or beach side, of a property.
Hastings referenced structure variances through her time on the committee of adjustment, pointing out that staff wouldn't be supportive if changes were made that also changed the landscape of a particular street through a property’s front yard, and related it to the beach front discussion.
“So a boathouse, for example, along a long stretch of beach we can see for miles, is changing the landscape. Perhaps there’s some language we can consider there,” Hastings concluded.
Next steps for the draft ZBL will be for staff to make refinements for a second draft which could be brought before council prior to an as-of-yet unscheduled statutory public meeting aimed for June, before final bylaw approval in summer.
Full details of the draft zoning bylaw, including contact information to become part of the process, can be found on the New Tiny Zoning By-Law page of the township website.
The April 2022 technical memorandum with shoreline structure information and other zoning bylaw input and recommendations can be viewed within the agenda page located on the Tiny Township website.
Archives of council meetings are available to view on Tiny township’s YouTube channel.
Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca