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Council will seek legal advice over boathouse minor rezoning

An application for minor rezoning to allow parking for a loft above a boathouse to be used partially as tourist accommodation has been deferred by council for a legal decision.

The application was presented to council as it did not reach two-thirds majority at a planning meeting last week.

A half dozen neighbours spoke to council against approval for 28 Fairfield Street in Picton (next to the Yacht Club), citing parking problems, setbacks, noise, building code and other concerns.

Several councillors agreed, also speaking to the dark neighbourhood on Hill Street due to a high amount of short term accommodations; flood plain area, water main issues and the chance further boat house owners would follow suit.

Some were comfortable with approval as this would not take away a full-time living space; and it was specifically for a minor zoning change – the site plan, building and safety issues would come up later in the process.

Councillor Jamie Forrester requested a legal opinion on what happens if council denies the application, and the applicant challenges the decision.

“One thing I don’t want to do is not approve this, have this challenged and cost this County a whole bunch of money. A legal opinion would save us a lot of time, and effort. I would like to hear more information.”

Property owner William Harney had spoken to council in a deputation speaking to the desire to work with the Yacht Club and neighbours. He and his wife plan to stay in the loft and friends and family would also be welcome. On occasion, he said, the loft would be let out to tourists.

Neighbours at 26 Fairfield wrote in support of the project. The Yacht Club was in support of improvements and renovations, but not use as a rental.

The rezoning application is to allow for two alternative parking spots at the Yacht Club. The Harney’s wish to install water and sanitary services via main extensions. A tourist establishment is a permitted use of the property on an existing lot of record.

The existing boathouse structure is located within the 1:100 year flood plain but passes the Quinte Conservation five-test (flooding, erosion, dynamic beaches, pollution and conservation of land) it so would be difficult to deny the application, said councillor Janice Maynard. The risk is minimal as the tourist unit would be on the second floor of the long-standing building, free from direct flooding.

Councillor Mike Harper said it’s important what the public sees.

“I’m not that concerned about the personal use residence. It will meet code and be safe; potential of flooding is their business, but my business is how does this look to the public? Given that we’ve just gone through a lot of discussion and work to establish some short-term accommodation regulations to deal with community problems, I know technically STA regulations don’t apply, but if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and swims like a duck, it is a duck – it is a rental and the public won’t care about the zoning.”

Harper said the public will care that council just established rules around set backs and privacy fences and parking “and before the ink is even dry, allow an exception to that. It opens us up to serious criticism. It weakens the program and also hurts the integrity of the program and opens us up to more challenges.”

The issue is to come back at a future meeting.

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  1. Maggie Haylock says:

    What next? An application to create an STA in a potting shed? Permanent residents of any neighbourhood should not be expected to accept noise disruption or annoyances of any other kind from STAs. It is unfair.

  2. Gary says:

    I see little reason to deny this application. It meets policy and does not effect the neighbours any different than any other STA on Hill St. All residents need to be treated equally.

  3. Jack says:

    The OMB was just disbanded in April, precisely because it was perceived to give the ‘developers’ the upper hand.

    Our Council is now on much more solid ground should they choose to reject this proposal.

  4. Diana says:

    Mark, there are certainly many cases where this has happened in the past. Everyone, including the Conservation Authorities, have recognized that allowing ‘development’ in the flood plane is a threat to the environment. That’s why Quinte Conservation regulations say its’ no longer allowed.

  5. Mark says:

    Diana; Doesn’t the Yauth Club have sewer and water on the flood plain?

  6. Michelle says:

    How is this any different from a cottage on the Bay? As for costs, the County will pay if they reject, opposers will pay to challenge.

  7. Diana says:

    Wow James,

    Just found the bylaw online (at the end of 200 pages of the agenda) and you’re right about ‘notwithstanding’. It’s used a number times to get the County out of needing to comply with their own rules in this “Special” case!

    And in this “Special” case, they’re letting them run water and sewer lines right down through the flood plane. Sounds like a recipe for disaster!

  8. Max says:

    Aren’t boats houses, by definition, on Crown lake bed and under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Natural Resources, not the County?

  9. James says:

    Chuck,

    Did you not see where Council just declared a Climate Emergency? Each and every decision by Council now requires climate impacts being prioritized. The water is rising fast over the past few years and will continue to do so. The other day the parking lot adjacent to the applicant property was 80% flooded including a pool of water in front of the applicant entranceway.

    The only reason the boxes got checked is because the people entrusted to apply the bylaws decided to ignore their own rules and grant “Special” status to this applicant. Look up Notwithstanding and how it is used in this “Special” exception being made.

    The area in question (The Commons) is currently 25% STA. It was made clear by way of support from a couple of other boathouse owners that this is just one of several planned conversions to rentals at this location should this initial applicant prevail. There will be a legal challenge for Council to deal with either way so that argument holds no water. Pardon the pun.

  10. Jack says:

    IF the application met all the current bylaws, there would be no need for this issue to come before Council at all!
    The whole purpose of this proposed bylaw is to allow an exception to the current rules.

  11. Chuck says:

    I dare say legal advice will support the applicant as it is fully within current policy.

  12. James says:

    This is not a minor issue. It is precedent setting and invites all of the existing STA’s to question council on the about to be imposed STA bylaw that would appear not to apply to this flooded boathouse.

    The attendance at Council last night was impressive. Not the usual six or so taxpayers but a full house who in the vast majority are in opposition to the granting of “Special” designation for the applicant.

    It was smart of Councilor Forester to call for legal advice and defer this vote.

  13. Chuck says:

    This application meets the current zoning bylaws and should be approved. The taxpayer will end up paying on appeal if denied. There is no reasonable reason to deny.

  14. Jack says:

    This rezoning is not a ‘minor’ issue. If approved, it will allow an STA to operate at this location without being subject to the regulations which will applied to most other STAs (because it will not be zoned ‘Residential’).

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