Decision stops all development on Hastings Drive

All development is banned on Hastings Drive in Long Point.

The April 16 decision by a provincial tribunal, formerly known as the Ontario Municipal Board, severely limits what owners can do with dozens of vacant lots on the three-kilometre road along Lake Erie. The tightened rules aim to protect lives and property in a hazard land area prone to flooding and erosion. The Local Planning Appeal Tribunal upheld a 30-year old ban on new buildings, including cottages. In addition, the tribunal approved Norfolk County’s zoning proposals to ban overnight camping in vehicles, trailers or tents and forbid construction of new decks, change houses, outdoor washrooms, docks, piers, wharves and shoreline protection. The tribunal’s decision does not affect two dozen long-time cottages that survived a 1985 storm that destroyed dozens of buildings on Hastings Drive. Owners of 75 vacant lots are to be limited to “day use,” which means they can visit their properties between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m. They and their vehicles cannot stay overnight.

The tribunal’s decision will be written into Norfolk’s zoning. Enforcement will begin on May 1st. People will be expected to comply, Mayor Charlie Luke said in an interview. Mayor Luke noted that one day after the tribunal’s decision, high wind and rainfall forced county staff to close the road to the western half of Hastings Drive. Cottagers were advised to leave their properties because the roadway had been overcome by wind-driven waves and high water levels. Mayor Luke said the tribunal’s decision did not surprise him. It ended six years of discussions as part of a process to update county zoning. At a five-day tribunal hearing in Simcoe in January, it was agreed that Hastings Drive is at risk from flooding and erosion. Questions concerned limits on using vacant lots. Some vacant lots are owned by families whose cottages were destroyed or torn down after the “big storm” of December 1985. After the storm, former Norfolk Township banned rebuilding cottages and new construction. But RVs, trailers and camping overnight were a grey area that led to disputes with some owners of surviving cottages. The written ruling by tribunal member Blair S. Taylor affirms Norfolk’s proposed zoning which spells out a ban on overnight accommodation on Hastings’ vacant lots. The lots cannot be altered, so grading, excavating and dumping fill are banned.

Owners of vacant lots are allowed to do two things: visit their properties during the day and launch boats into Lake Erie. Norfolk County is permitted to declare its 47 empty lots as parkland. Mr. Taylor cited the need to protect life and property from “patent and imminent hazards.” He noted provincial planning policy, Norfolk’s official plan and a conservation authority shoreline management plan all prohibit development on hazard land. Mr. Taylor pointed to concerns expressed by EMS personnel and firefighters about washed out roads in remote areas like Hastings Drive. Other factors in Mr. Taylor’s decision included Hastings Drive’s shifting beach located in a floodplain near provincially significant wetlands in an area of natural and scientific interest.

Councillor Haydt releases statement

I am deeply disappointed in the recent decision by the OMB regarding land use and property rights on Hastings Drive. In my opinion, the entire process was never about personal safety but was actually political promises being kept at any cost and bureaucratic interference at every level. The majority of council approved the use of trailers on private lots in the area and so many things were done behind the scene to stop that from happening. I am shocked that in this great Country of ours that a decision was made that strips all property rights away from land-owning taxpayers to the point that you can’t even park your own vehicle on your own land after 11 pm! I have received so many complaints about the process being circumvented it’s hard to come up with a starting point. Council wisely decided to have two landowners on the initial Hastings Drive study group.

Both residents complained to me that County staff and the consultants had held a closed door pre-meeting before the actual meeting was held and felt that their comments went unacknowledged. Comments made by Norfolk County Emergency services in the report has had my phone ringing off the hook from across the entire County. EMS stated “as always we continually struggle with access and egress problems to remote areas such as Hastings Drive especially during winter months”. Fire and Rescue Services stated “Fire would not go down the road if flooded due to the concern of the road being washed out. Would wait for roads and a front end loader to make sure road is passable and to remove any obstacles”. There are a lot of dead end roads in this County and flooding of the Causeway was very common in the past. I know a good number of the men and women that work in our emergency services and can assure the residents that our highly trained personnel would not simply sit around while your house burned down or you had a medical emergency because you live in Long Point, Turkey Point or on a back road.

The decision made by the OMB includes two uses that would be allowed on private property. 1. Public park as defined for the purpose of this special provision as lands owned and /or operated by the County of Norfolk, Long Point Region Conservation Authority or other government agency provided there are no buildings or structures located thereon; 2. Day use, which is defined as being personal use and enjoyment of a vacant lot for a day, which may include launching boats. (5 am to 11 pm) I find the comments made by Mr. Larry VanSevern, a member of the study committee and land owner on Hastings Drive to be bang on regarding #1. He stated “a sneaky form of expropriation without compensation of private property.” The 1989 Shoreline Management Plan commissioned by the Long Point Region Conservation Authority has a preferred concept for Hastings Drive which states “That public ownership of shoreline properties be encouraged and that the municipality and conservation authority approach senior levels of government and other organizations including private organizations for financial assistance. The conservation authority should take a lead role in this effort.” I feel that this is a complete conflict of interest on Norfolk County and the LPRCA’s behalf.

If the mandate is to acquire the property for a park then how can you be impartial when stripping away land owners property rights? I can assure the residents of this County that as long as I sit on council or the LPRCA board I will not vote to allow lands to be expropriated without appropriate compensation and only to a willing seller. I feel that the decision made is based on how context is taken from the Provincial Policy Statement and the Shoreline Management Plan. The SMP states that all of Long Point is a dynamic beach as well as Turkey Point, and Port Dover. Clearly the latter two areas have a different standard being used in approving developments. The PPS states there is to be no development within the dynamic beach hazard. My question is when do dynamic beaches become not dynamic? Are fortified stone shoreline protection structures still dynamic? They aren’t when it comes to Port Dover or anywhere else in Ontario. The PPS states that development can occur when you address the hazard. Conservation authorities are mandated from the Province to reduce the risk of life and damage to property from flood hazards. Lakeshore lots go for $500,000 easily.

There are 24 private cottages, 47 lots owned by Norfolk and 75 private lots. If these lots could be built upon the 47 county ones would be worth around $23.5 million. Private lots would be $37.5 million. That is a whopping $61 million. Development fees alone would be close to $2.2 million in revenue for Norfolk. Flood proofing standards and building codes are the rules of the day. You simply cannot compare old cottages built in the ’40s and ’50s to what is possible today. I heard a lot of comments about a lack of common sense in government and I’m sure that I’m not the only person shaking their head on this one.

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