Norfolk County Now Requires Permits for Docks

Chief Building Officials Memo and Solicitor Legal Opinion of Building Code to Council regarding Dock Permits now required in all of Norfolk County.

I am a waterfront property owner within Norfolk County and am very concerned about the Solicitor’s opinion on February 6th, 2018 in a closed door meeting and the Chief Building Officials Memo, regarding Norfolk County’s jurisdiction now extending into the waterway of Lake Erie. More clarity needs to be explained to all stakeholders, and simply stating this policy change at the February 13th, 2018 Public Meeting is now in effect as a go-forward basis where “processing building permits for docks, boathouses, etc. for the Building and By- Law Department”, is extremely vague on an issue which will effect all aspects of Norfolk’s waterfront communities. “Etc.” is a general term which provides extreme concern to me.

This is a seriously flawed approach by Norfolk County for only considering this one site-specific ruling in the Kawarthas way back in 2015 (Glaspell v. North Kawartha). The MNRF over the last 2 years of stakeholder meetings with Conservation Authorities, Cottage Associations, Municipalities, dock builders and property owners have recognized the opinion of one case should not apply to all of Ontario Public Lands and therefore the MNRF revised/amended their shoreline Regulations (O. Reg. 161/17 & 239/13) in June 2017 to specifically go against this Glaspell ruling, and not require a permit to be issued on Public Lands for structures that do not physically make contact with more than 15 square meters of shore lands (which has always been their original stance pre and post Glaspell Ruling). Reasons for MNRF going against the Glaspell ruling were primarily from the feedback received from the many stakeholders involved and to eliminate the wait times for work permits that would result.

Based on this “Glaspell” approach by Norfolk Staff, all structures built in, over, upon or abutting Ontario lakes that are larger then 108 square feet would require a permit from Norfolk County. Norfolk County’s interpretation of only the Glaspell case combined with the Ontario Building Code will soon be a slippery slope for all structures on the waterway and shore lands within Long Point and Norfolk as a whole. Permits by the County soon may be required not just for all docks (any kind including floating) larger then 108 sq ft, yet also break walls and Ice fishing huts... you name it and they’ll slap a permit for it. All that defines a building in the building code act is any structure with a wall, roof or floor.

Here is the flaw which I see in the Glaspell ruling which involved specially a floating dock. Ask a lawyer this, what happens if one straps on an outboard motor to the end of a floating dock? would it not now technically be a barge or boat? is it still a building or structure or is it now a vehicle? You could arguably do the same for an ice fishing hut.

The MNRF has already determined issuing dock permits would be a nightmare to implement, yet somehow Norfolk County knows a way to effectively do it with one closed door meeting and no public input. A policy that was not required to implement and was done for reasons I can only assume in part to block others from building docks similar to mine on Hastings Drive. This will really hurt all aspects within Norfolk’s waterfront communities.

It’s worth reading and sending to Council the revised MNRF Shore Land Regulations (June 2017) and asking the following questions:

1) Why was the MNRF amended and new shore land regulations (O. Reg. 161/17 & 239/13) which was passed very recently in June 2017, not considered in the County's memo or report?

2) Why has Norfolk County quickly decided to start regulating through permits the following structures - floating, pole and cantilevered docks when the MNRF who has the primary jurisdiction over the waterway has recently continued to re-enforce their position for not requiring permits for these structures, as per their original stance prior to the Glaspell ruling?

3) Why was there no public input on dock permits and the process to follow.

4) Where online is the process/steps listed for a property owner to now obtain a dock permit in Norfolk County? or are they even in place yet?

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