Tay Township, Ont. considering zoning bylaw for docks

Cottage Dock Photo by Shutterstock/David Wayne Buck

On August 10, during a Protective and Development Services meeting in Tay Township, Ont., Todd Weatherell, the township’s manager of planning and development services, broached the idea of introducing a zoning bylaw for docks.

Currently, Tay Township has no zoning bylaws pertaining to docks, meaning there’s no limit on the length, width, and height of a dock, or how many docks can be on the property. You also don’t need a permit to build or rebuild a dock.

Weatherell, who started working for Tay Township last September, says he’s never seen a building permit for a dock pass through his office. “We only regulate the setback,” he says, which is how close to the water you can build a structure from your property line.

Weatherell used to work for the Township of Georgian Bay, which does have bylaws around dock size. For properties in the township with frontage on Georgian Bay, docks with a ramp can’t be longer than 26 metres or wider than four metres. These measurements do differ depending on location.

Seeing the Township of Georgian Bay’s bylaws did, in part, motivate Weatherell to bring forward the suggestion, but it was also in response to a July 27 town council presentation made by a resident unhappy with the size of his neighbour’s newly rebuilt dock. The resident claimed that the dock blocked his view of Georgian Bay, and suggested that the township introduce permits for docks.

The dock in question measures 90 metres in length and includes a railing. But according to the dock’s owner, there are reasons for its size. The dock was rebuilt on a new crib, raising the front eight inches and the end six inches. This is to prevent the dock from being swept away by high water levels, which is what happened to the last dock, the owner says. Otherwise, the dock’s length and width are the exact same as they’ve been for the last 20 years.

The reason for the extensive length is that the dock is built on shallow water. The only way to keep a boat on the property was to extend the dock out into deeper waters. As for the railing, the owner, who’s 87, says he’s unable to walk without a support. The railing allows him to continue enjoying his dock.

With an increasing number of baby boomers retiring to cottage country, and water levels, especially in the Great Lakes, impacted by climate change, Tay Township will have to consider a variety of factors if it does decide to implement dock zoning bylaws.

“We’re looking into potentially creating bylaws that will enforce length and setbacks, but again, that will be up to council and planning, and subject to a public meeting process,” Weatherell says.

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