Algonquin Highlands in Haliburton, Ont. is set to pass a new policy that would require property owners to register certain docks on public land. There has been some confusion from residents and cottagers alike over who will be affected. Sean O’Callaghan, the town planner for Algonquin Highlands, explains that the policy would only pertain to docks on public land that are separated from the owner’s property by a township-maintained road, such as those on North Shore Road.
“Council originally looked at implementing a policy in 2013. At that time, no decision was made. It was brought up again in 2021, and now, with the new council being in place, they asked that this be brought back again,” O’Callaghan says. “It all stems from a risk of liability of private structures being constructed on a maintained township road allowance.”
Current docks on public land were grandfathered in under an old set of rules, O’Callaghan says. But under current policies, Algonquin Highlands is unable to issue building permits for these structures, meaning dock owners aren’t allowed to replace or repair them.
Since the docks are on municipally owned land, the township is concerned that any accidents on the docks could expose Algonquin Highlands to litigation. Under the new policy, dock owners would have to register the structure with the township and purchase insurance. In turn, the township would issue building permits to restore current docks as well as build new ones.
To register a dock—regardless of whether it’s a new build or a current dock—owners would have to pay a $750 application fee as well as a $500 annual fee.
“It would also require a $2,500 deposit just at the time of application,” O’Callaghan says. “That’s to deal with any legal fees associated with registering these agreements.” The deposit would be returned once the dock was successfully registered.
On top of fees, owners would also be required to purchase insurance for their dock up to a minimum of $5 million.
O’Callaghan is currently compiling a list of all known docks on public land divided from the owner’s property by a township-maintained road. “There are a couple of areas that we’re aware of that would be most greatly impacted,” he says.
To enforce registration, the township is looking at contracting a third party that would engage with any property owners who didn’t register their dock. “We want people to voluntarily come forward, obviously,” O’Callaghan says. “But if that doesn’t happen, then we’ll have to follow up with some communication with those property owners and establish some sort of plan to bring them into compliance with the new policy.”
He stresses that the new policy will not affect docks on private land or docks on public land that aren’t separated from the owner’s property by a township-maintained road. If you own a dock on public land that isn’t divided by a municipal road, it is allowed to stay there. But O’Callaghan says the township won’t issue building permits for those structures.
The dock registration policy will appear before the town council on August 17 where councillors will vote whether to ratify the policy.