Owen Sound Sun Times


Monday, July 21st, 2008

Bylaw called key to water access clarity

Disputes about public access to the water at Mallory Beach would disappear if municipal officials enforced existing bylaws, residents told a town hall-style meeting Saturday morning.

South Bruce Peninsula bylaws guarantee public access, prohibit permanent structures and control parking and other uses of town-owned lands, including avenue rights-of-way at Mallory Beach.

"The bylaw covers all the problems that have been brought up. It's just not being enforced," resident Peter Whittemore said after the meeting at Colpoys Bay hall Saturday.

There's an avenue right-of-way connecting Mallory Beach Road with the water every four lots. The municipally owned avenues, some of which become quite steep at one end of the road, are public property. They were intended to guarantee water access for lot owners on the inland side of Mallory Beach Road.

Some waterfront property owners have built docks or sheds and store boats at the bottom of the avenues, while others have invested in stairwells or otherwise improved the avenues, the meeting heard. In some cases, waterfront lot owners have prevented other people from using the public access to reach the water, residents said.

Some residents said they resent the municipality's new plan to post signs clearly marking all the avenues as public access to the water.

If the waterfront property owners had not built stairways, in some cases, or hauled in stone, the sometimes-steep avenues could not be used to reach the water, Dave Dean said. If the municipality now intends to post the avenues as public access, the town should also assume the maintenance costs, he added.

"We're the ones who made it accessible," Dean said.

When Mayor Gwen Gilbert asked what he suggested as a solution, Dean said "leave it the way it is now . . . we've got along fine for 40 years or more."

Town officials said they have concerns about liability because some structures on the public avenues are deteriorating. But residents said liability would still be an issue if someone was injured climbing the steep embankment, stairs or not.

Resident Ab Moore said the avenues are mainly to provide water access for nearby property owners who don't have waterfront land. Posting public access would invite more traffic, increasing the municipality's liability woes.

"If you're not going to maintain it, why would you put up signs and elevate that risk?" Moore asked. "Certainly you should not be encouraging the public to start to use these roads."

Larrilee Leckie, president of the Mallory Beach Ratepayers Association, said signs posting public access are not necessary and would bring down property values. She also said further publicizing public access could bring strangers into the area to scope out cottages for things worth stealing.

"That's my greatest concern, is that provision of opportunity," Leckie said.

After the meeting, Leckie said enforcing the municipal bylaws "would be a giant step in solving the difficulties."

The association will discuss the issue further at its annual meeting in August to reach a consensus for council, Leckie said, adding she appreciated council's efforts to clarify the issues through the public meeting.

"I certainly applaud the town for attempting to communicate with people. Communication is a key factor and people need to know and clearly understand their rights and responsibilities," she said.

Gilbert said the meeting was called only partly because of Mallory Beach access issues. It was the first of a series of such sessions council plans throughout South Bruce Peninsula, she said.

The meeting also focused on ATV troubles and speeding on Mallory Beach Road, which Gilbert told residents does not qualify as a community safety zone, as well as the municipality's looming waste management crisis.


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