Dynamic beach meeting draws crowd in Huron-KInloss

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The Ripley Wolves would love the attendance numbers found at Huron-Kinloss council’s last meeting.

An overflow crowd of Bruce Beach residents Oct. 20 sent township staff scrambling for extra chairs. The residents wanted to make comments regarding the new dynamic beach setbacks along the lakeshore and Huron-Kinloss’ official plan amendment.

David Larsen points an accusatory finger at council during the Oct. 20 public meeting concerning dynamic beaches. (Kiel Edge photo)

Consultant Bill Green of GSP Group, a planning consultant, recommended council make several amendments to its comprehensive zoning bylaw along the lakeshore. Green spoke with Bruce County officials and area residents to determine what sections of the bylaw needed to be improved.

He recommended council update the definition of the dynamic beach designation. It has been confusing some residents and he believes this is the time to clear it up. Green also said council should extend its dynamic beach study south of the 6th concession to Point Clark. The study would determine if a reduced setback could be offered to lakeshore residents in this section of the township.

“I’d prefer to adopt this bylaw now and if the studies result in a change in the setbacks, we can do it as an independent amendment of the official plan,” Green said.

Huron-Kinloss’ comprehensive zoning bylaw rose out of a new provincial planning policy initiated in 2005. The provincial government asked for lakeshore municipalities to have separate zoning for lakeshore areas affected by 100-year flood lines.

Almost three years ago, council began a study of the area between the 6th and 10th concessions. The province recommended a setback of 45-metres from the water to protect houses. The setback was determined through a formula involving the flood line and the new dynamic beach protection line. Precautions were also included for protecting the beach dunes and other environmental concerns.

The provincial setback meant no cottage owner could build anything within 45 metres of the lake front. Existing cottages were exempt, but any rebuilding could not be done. Council then undertook a study to examine the flood lines and managed to have a section of Bruce Beach reduced to a 30-metre setback.

The provincial guidelines were mandated on the township, making it nearly impossible to change any of the setbacks. Mayor Mitch Twolan said council had to follow its policy rigorously throughout the process.

“We can’t change the law,” he said. “We’ve listened to your concerns and it’s time to move forward.”

Council was not expecting the large crowd that gathered, but permitted residents to make several comments. The second speaker used foul language and Twolan decided to end the public meeting.

“We’re sick and tired of being persecuted for everything we do around here,” Twolan said. “We’ve been in the public (spotlight over this issue) for the last three or four years.”

Council moved on to other business on its agenda but was interrupted by lakeshore resident David Larsen. Larsen said council had called a public meeting, and it was unfair to end it based on one individual’s comments.

“The bombardment (against council) stops when you take a stand,” Larsen said. “We’re with you on this and we want to be with you, but if our property is expropriated, we can’t be on your side.”

Residents want council to go against the provincial regulations. Council could defeat its bylaw and allow the property owners to continue living under the current regulations, but Twolan said that would result in a trip to the Ontario Municipal Board, which the Township would lose.

“This was dropped on us,” said councillor Jim Hanna. “There was an opportunity and we worked to reduce the setback. We’re improving your ability to enjoy your properties.”

Hanna pointed out there are other aspects of the comprehensive zoning bylaw that will help residents. It streamlines lakeshore zoning, making it easier to identify how a property has been designated.  It also prevents the large number of minor variance requests that have cropped up along the lakeshore in recent years.

Lakeshore residents south of the 6th concession want council to change the bylaw if the proposed study determines there is value in pursuing a reduced setback. Green told the crowd it was possible to make changes to the official plan if that situation occurs.

Council passed a bylaw hiring Baird and Associates to undertake a dynamic beach study to look at reducing the setback from the 6th concession south to Point Clark. Council, has also commissioned a brief study to determine whether a full-fledged dynamic beach study should be done in the area south of Point Clark.

Councillors also agreed to pass the comprehensive zoning bylaw with the amendments recommended by Green. The Official Plan, with updated maps showing the dynamic beach and lakefront designations, was also adopted.

The Official Plan amendment must be approved by Bruce County Council before it’s enacted. This will likely give the township time to complete its new study and determine a path forward for dynamic beach properties along the rest of the lakeshore.