KAWARTHA LAKES –Thurstonia and Kenstone Beach residents could eventually be sailing into their summers differently as council reviews a proposal to remove any docks that belong to the residents that are not located directly across from the waterfront.
And while that in itself could be a drastic change for many, those who will have the opportunity to maintain their docks or boathouses could be subjected to an increased annual fee.
According to a recent report to council, the fee for a dock is proposed to be updated to 400 dollars annually, and the fee for a boathouse is proposed to be set at 250 dollars per wall, an increase from the current fee of 150 dollars.
Some residents took to Facebook to express their concern. Kari Nesbit said “I’m just inquiring as to why the residents of Thurstonia were not notified of the proposed changes to our docking spaces? It doesn’t seem fair that we are not privy to the information and have received no say about our future.”
Another resident asked why the proposal was being brought during a pandemic. Numerous residents emailed Kawartha 411 with concerns about the proposal.
But Mayor Andy Letham is telling residents not to read to much into the report just yet. He says the report was sent back to staff for revisions and the issue will return to council on March 9. As Mayor, Letham is hopeful that residents will not see an increase in fees.
“It’s too big of a jump too fast, we need people to get used to the policy first before dramatically increasing fees,” he said.
He also noted that the city is not intending on removing numerous docks but hopes to focus on the safety of the docks that will remain.
“I can’t say every back lot owner will be forced to remove (their dock), if there is spacing and room there and it’s done right, they may be able to leave their dock. Hopefully, no one will have to remove. It will affect some but our goal is not to pull docks but just to make sure they’re safe, maintained and insured.”
Currently, the only areas that are regulated by License Agreements are Thurstonia and Kenstone Beach. In both cases, the dock encroachments were historically permitted by the former Townships and continued to be allowed upon amalgamation through a permit system run through Community Services.
When the permits for those areas expired in 2018, both areas became regulated and dock owners were offered License Agreements for a 5-year term, in accordance with that policy.
For Ward 6 Councillor, Ron Ashmore, as stated in the report, the possible reduction of 140 dock spaces out of approximately 220 is alarming and unnecessary.
“The last couple of years there has been at least 20 people that have been on a list patiently waiting to get a dock space, right now there are about 15 people on the list with 20 available spaces,” he said. “This is the frustrating part of it, this is not something I expected.”
Ashmore noted that while the report calls to drastically reduce the number of docks and size specifications, the recommendations could potentially evolve into a complete redesign of the waterfront.
“Really to me, there are issues but not a lot of issues with structures in Thurstonia, everybody takes pride in their dock space. There are a lot of docks that may not be renewed and people that have had them for generations,” he said. “Now they’re going to be facing this in two years that they may not get a dock again, this has caused a lot of confusion, I want to basically stop this and maintain what we have.”
According to Mayor Letham, the new policy was put in place in 2018 when council had to decide between removing all docks indefinitely or ensuring the existing docks and structures were safe and insured.
“Council at the end of the day took their second option; let’s make sure they’re there, fair for everybody and safe, that’s the policy we are trying to put in place. Some areas are being affected a little more, that’s the rationale, not to see how many people we can upset.”
In the report, staff recommended that public input be welcomed. According to Mayor Letham, once the new policy is finalized in council, it will then move forward with public input from the residents affected and the new regulations will not come into effect until 2022.
“If something happens and the resident doesn’t have insurance, the municipality has to carry that burden, it’s necessary for the good of everybody,” he said. “We want to get suggestions from the public, work together on it and then council can make a final adjustment in the fall.”
The proposed amendments also state that backlot owners will not be approved for a License Agreement. This is to assist with the Trent Severn Waterway requirement that there be a minimum of 10 metres spacing between each structure and to prevent overcrowding in each area.
According to the report, this will allow for dock spaces to be provided to property owners directly across the street from the waterfront, giving them a similar benefit afforded to those who live on a shoreline road allowance where a travelled road does not exist.
“In my opinion, if people want them closer together, why do we care, I hate to think we will pull docks cause they’re seven or eight metres apart, I understand the rationale of it but it’s not realistic in some parts of the city,” Mayor Letham explained.
For all those residents whose structures are not approved for a License Agreement, they will be informed by letter and advised that they have thirty days to remove their structure or to appeal the decision by making a deputation to Council, the report states. If the structure is not removed or a request for a deputation made within thirty days, the structure will be removed by the City. The dock or boathouse owner will be responsible for paying the fees associated with the removal, the initial report stated.
Residents whose structures have been approved will also be advised by letter. Once those residents are provided with a License Agreement, they will have 60 days to return a signed License Agreement, payment of the applicable License Fee, and proof of acceptable insurance.
The report continued, if any of the required items are not received within 60 days, Realty Services will send a final letter advising that any outstanding items must be provided within 30 days or the dock or boathouse will be removed.
“Back lots have placed docks in between other docks, right now they’re allowed to do that, I can’t say every back lot owner will be forced to remove, if there is spacing and room there and it’s done right, they may be able to leave their dock,” said Mayor Letham.
Currently, many docks are encroaching on the roadway, but the municipality requires at least three metres beside each road, he added.
“We have people piling docks right beside the road, it’s a huge liability, some will have to be removed, that’s just common sense,” said the Mayor. “We need that road allowance, its needed, situations where we got structures, storage and docks right up to a roadway, it’s okay for now, but down the road when we do maintenance on that road, they’ll have to make adjustments.”
But according Ashmore, the potential road maintenance should not negatively affect the docks and structures that are currently located near the roadway.
“We don’t need that, the road is functioning fine, it needs to be resurfaced but that can be done without having 140 lots taken out, even the engineer has said that,” he said. “I can tell you right now, there’s not a lot of happy campers right now, especially for the back lots, it’s very troubling, these people were patiently waiting. Everybody should be treated equally, you don’t have to get priority when you’re in the front.”
And while the new policy will affect a lot of Thurstonia residents, Mayor Letham noted that it is a city-wide policy.
“We want to level the playing field, people forget if they have a dock on municipal property without a license, anyone can go on that dock, it’s not their dock,” he said. “Anyone can use it and legally there is nothing they can do about it. A license will give them exclusive rights and use of that dock on municipal property.”
After revisions are made, the report will return to council on March 9.
“I believe Thurstonia is the longest waterfront community that we have in Kawartha Lakes and its nice, people are just getting used to this thing, and now to redesign the waterfront with 140 less spaces, it’s going to be a major overhaul,” said Ashmore. “There is so much uncertainty but that’s just what happens and we have to deal with it.”