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‘Mega dock’ propels Ontario cottagers to seek new rules for aquatic airstrips

‘Mega dock’ propels Ontario cottagers to seek new rules for aquatic airstrips

A big dock on a quiet Ontario lake has raised an uproar amongst native cottagers who say federal rules for water airplane touchdown strips enable builders to disregard native bylaws.

Measuring greater than 200 sq. metres — giant sufficient to deal with a volleyball courtroom — the dock sits on the shore of Three Mile Lake behind 206 Skyline Dr. within the Township of Armour, Ont., simply north of Muskoka.

The property proprietor says the dock is a part of a personal water aerodrome — an aquatic touchdown strip for float planes and different plane — that falls completely underneath federal jurisdiction.

Close by cottagers say the dock is a blatant try to skirt native zoning legal guidelines by working underneath federal safety.

Township employees, within the minutes of a current council assembly, merely say the construction is a “mega dock.”

“It’s metal building, and it’s mammoth,” mentioned Linda Newnham, appearing president of the Three Mile Lake Neighborhood Membership, which is “enraged.”

“[It] has been perceived by the residents as an end-run to get what [the owner] wished.”

The cottage affiliation alleges the property proprietor is exploiting a “loophole” in Transport Canada rules that allowed him to assemble the dock with out collaborating with native authorities.

The cottage affiliation and township council are actually pushing Transport Canada to crack down on related proposals by guaranteeing mixed-use docks can not qualify as federally-regulated aerodromes.

Mayor worries about threat to lakes

Rod Ward, mayor of the Township of Armour, mentioned the township’s chief constructing officer first discovered in regards to the dock final December.

The constructing officer visited the property, Ward mentioned, and was knowledgeable by proprietor Bruce Klassen that his dock didn’t must comply with the traditional allowing course of as a result of it was registered with Transport Canada as a water aerodrome.

Rod Ward, mayor of the Township of Armour, says he was pissed off to be taught Transport Canada might override the township’s jurisdiction. (Submitted)

In a letter to the township’s chief constructing inspector dated Jan. 10, 2023, Klassen’s lawyer Matt Hodgson mentioned the “design and dimensions” of the dock fall completely underneath federal jurisdiction.

Hodgson argued Canadian courts have repeatedly discovered that provincial legal guidelines and municipal bylaws don’t apply to the placement and institution of aerodromes.

“The aim of this letter is to keep away from confrontation with municipal officers and pre-empt any misunderstanding with respect to building of the dock on our consumer’s lands,” Hodgson wrote.

He mentioned dock building didn’t want to satisfy native planning necessities nor did it require a allow underneath the township’s web site plan management bylaw.

Aerial view of a large dock.
Aerial view of the ‘mega dock’ on Three Mile Lake. A bubbler prevents ice from forming for a big radius across the dock. (Submitted)

Based on Ward, Klassen started transporting constructing supplies throughout the lake in mid-January.

Ward, who additionally owns a cottage on Three Mile Lake, mentioned he was pissed off to be taught Transport Canada might override the township’s authority.

Township of Armour bylaws are designed to guard the area’s lakes, Ward mentioned, and people lakes could also be put in danger if native guidelines aren’t adopted.

“On this space, our key useful resource is the lakes. It’s the explanation individuals come up right here. It drives the economic system,” he mentioned. “Safety of the lakes has at all times been important.”

When is a dock only a dock?

For Ward and different cottagers, the design of the dock suggests extra building could also be deliberate for the longer term.

Ward mentioned he’s involved Klassen might construct on high of the dock, making a boathouse or different construction, which might hinder the view of neighbours.

“It wouldn’t make quite a lot of sense to construct this type of basis for one thing with out constructing one thing on high,” he mentioned.

In an approval utility submitted to the federal authorities’s navigation safety program registry, plans for the dock don’t embrace a roof.

Talking by way of his lawyer in an e-mail, Klassen mentioned the plans don’t comprise parts of a boathouse as a result of he has “completely no intention” of constructing one.

The plans do, nevertheless, present a number of areas for boat slips alongside the place a float airplane would dock.

Black and white plans for a dock.
Plans submitted to the federal authorities’s navigation safety program registry for Bruce Klassen’s dock on Three Mile Lake. (Bruce Klassen)

Township of Armour council handed a decision at its Could 2 assembly, which calls on Transport Canada to require anybody in search of to register a water aerodrome to seek the advice of provincial and municipal authorities earlier than building.

The decision additionally referred to as on Transport Canada to state “mixed-use” docks and constructions, resembling Klassen’s, would not be permitted underneath its rules.

The township has since handed a bylaw limiting the scale of docks on the lake to about 45 sq. metres.

Klassen, a licensed pilot at the moment working for Air Canada, declined to remark additional.

In a letter to Township of Armour council, Klassen mentioned his dock was “particularly and purposely” designed for use as a personal water aerodrome.

Neighborhood opposition, he mentioned within the letter, relies on a “lack of knowledge, incomplete info and misinformation” in regards to the challenge.

Klassen mentioned the aerodrome won’t be used for industrial functions or fuelling plane, nor will it embrace a washroom or kitchen.

Recurring subject

Cottagers on Three Mile Lake aren’t the primary in Ontario to accuse a neighbour of utilizing federal legal guidelines to dodge native authorities.

In a case heard by the Ontario Superior Court docket of Justice in 2013, an applicant within the District Municipality of Muskoka, Ont., was ordered to demolish a boathouse he constructed on Lake Rosseau, which he claimed was an aerodrome.

In contrast to Klassen, the cottager in that case didn’t maintain a pilot’s licence nor personal a airplane.

Gary Austin, who owns a cottage on Three Mile Lake and runs a small aviation enterprise in London, Ont., mentioned he has landed helicopters and float planes on the lake prior to now.

Austin mentioned individuals on the lake are welcoming to float planes, however he doesn’t personally see a “sensible use” for registering his dock as an aerodrome.

A float plane sits at a dock on a lake.
Gary Austin, whose float airplane is proven right here, has a cottage on Three Mile Lake and has landed float planes and helicopters on the lake prior to now. He says he can’t think about a ‘sensible’ motive for registering his dock as an aerodrome. (Submitted by Gary Austin)

In his opinion, the one function of doing so would be to legitimize the aerodrome underneath the Aeronautics Act — thereby bringing the dock underneath federal authority.

“Why ought to I be particular simply because I personal a float airplane?” he mentioned. “I feel it might be prudent for Transport Canada to make clear these rules … and make it very clear that if my dock is getting used for blended use, it doesn’t qualify underneath that federal jurisdiction.”

In contrast to on land, the place proponents are required to inform space residents earlier than starting building, Transport Canada exempts water aerodromes from the session course of.

In an e-mail, a Transport Canada spokesperson mentioned the division considers a “number of components” when contemplating whether or not rules must be developed or amended, including it would overview the recommendations put ahead by the Township of Armour.

The spokesperson additionally mentioned the federal aeronautics regime doesn’t absolve somebody from following native bylaws, so long as these legal guidelines don’t intervene with the functioning of a given aerodrome. 

Transport Canada, nevertheless, places the onus on the courts to resolve whether or not a mixed-use dock is exempt from relevant bylaws on a case-by-case foundation.

Newnham mentioned which will obtain authorized prices onto small municipalities.

“What we’re saying to Transport Canada is ‘you have got brought on the issue, however you’re leaving it as much as us — our time, our vitality and our assets — to right it,’” she mentioned.

Native bylaws stop ‘wild west’

MP for Parry Sound–Muskoka Scott Aitchison mentioned he believes Transport Canada is “completely” forcing municipalities into an unfair place.

“Frankly, it utterly flies within the face of all the great work that municipalities are doing,” Aitchison mentioned.

“That is a kind of clear examples of a unique stage of presidency overreaching with — I feel — rules which might be too simplistic.”

Scott Aitchison stands at a conference podium.
MP for Parry Sound–Muskoka Scott Aitchison says Transport Canada is ‘flying within the face’ of the great work municipalities are doing. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Throughout his tenure as mayor in Huntsville, Ont., Aitchison mentioned yearly or two cottagers would attempt to flout native guidelines by registering their docks as personal aerodromes.

Aitchison needs to see rules guarantee a point of municipal involvement within the approval course of. Cottagers shouldn’t have the ability to “run roughshod” over native planning authorities, he mentioned.

Terry Rees, government director of the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations, mentioned an aerodrome loophole could jeopardize efficient land use planning on lakes throughout the province.

“These very particular guidelines [local bylaws] enable a group to make sure that it develops in an orderly trend and that it’s not the wild west,” he mentioned.

“We wish to ensure that loopholes like this should not used elsewhere.”

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