MNBP Reporter’s Notebook: STA Bylaw Meetings and Falling Water Levels

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By John Francis, Bruce Peninsula Press

The Municipality held two Public Meetings on Zoom to get reaction to the proposed Short-Term Accommodation regulations. Both meetings were facilitated by Will Meneray (Our Canvas Strategy Consulting Group) and attended by consultant Michael Wynia of Skelton Brumwell and Municipal CAO Peggy Van Mierlo-West. Both events were well-attended.

The first of the meetings, held on April 28, was intended to get reactions from STA owners and other stakeholders. Attendees described the “sentiment in the room” as generally supportive of STA regulation, but quite insistent that the proposed $1,000 registration fee for the smallest STAs was too high.

The April 29 meeting was advertised as open to all members of the community. It saw a diverse array of opinion. Nearly all of the attendees seemed broadly supportive of regulation, but there was a good deal of diversity within that. Several people echoed the previous night’s sentiments that it should be inexpensive and easy to rent the family cottage for a few weeks; no one argued against this perspective.

Several people spoke in favour of the proposed Bylaw, as is. They argued that the current consultation process is a waste of time — the Bylaw should have been passed and implemented for 2021.

But a number of people pushed back, insisting that the proposed Bylaw is too lax on larger STAs. Several speakers were scandalized that large overnight rentals are even allowed in Residential Zones, or that the Bylaw will apparently allow up to three Short-Term Rentals on a single property. One commenter described a huge cottage that was purpose-built as an overnight rental. “That’s a hotel,” he said. “It shouldn’t even be there. It shouldn’t be allowed. It should be in the business core, not five doors down from my house.” No one argued against this perspective; no one argued in favour of three rentals on a single property, either.

In fact, the large STA owners were conspicuously absent from both meetings. Comments on Facebook and elsewhere speculate that they are expecting their own private meetings with the municipality.

Meeting facilitator Will Meneray and consultant Michael Wynia will provide a report to Council, summarizing the opinions and comments expressed at the two meetings.

Asked about the time line for the process, CAO Van Mierlo-West summarized: Council will receive Will Meneray’s summary of the public meetings soon. Council will discuss the document and instruct Staff to revise/edit the Bylaw as needed. Staff will present the revised Bylaw to Council for approval. MNBP will advertise for a Public Meeting to review the revisions. At that point, Council can request staff go back and revise further or can approve it. Two weeks later, they can do the 3rd reading and pass the Bylaw. It could be implemented in early fall.

Georgian Bay Great Lakes Foundation (GBGLF) Worries That Lake Huron Water Levels Will Drop Rapidly

The Georgian Bay Great Lakes Foundation’s Spring Newsletter predicts (with credible scientific modelling) that water levels in the Huron/Michigan Georgian Bay basin may drop quickly over the next few years. The newsletter can be found at: https://www.georgianbaygreatlakesfoundation.com/april-2021-update/

Here is an excerpt:

“Water levels have finally started to come down from last year’s near record-breaking high, and we hope that the super high-water period, which started in the spring of 2014, is finally abating after seven years. Water levels this summer are predicted to be a foot lower than last summer’s. This extraordinary high-water period came on the heels of fifteen years of unprecedented low water on Lake Michigan-Huron and our Georgian Bay, when some people could not even get to their cottages by boat, and wetlands dried up. Water levels last August almost exceeded the all-time record high established in October 1986, of 177.5 metres above sea level. In October ‘86, the water flow in the St. Clair River set an all-time high record of 6,740 cubic metres per second … It was during such an incredibly high flow in 1986 that the last known serious erosion of the St. Clair River bottom occurred. That winter, with such high flow rates, an ice jam caused a sudden reduction in flow of nearly 50%. Ice jams tend to scoop up bottom material, which is then deposited down-river and causes navigation problems. The US Army Corps then embarks on navigation dredging, which increases conveyance. Those 1986 events enlarged the St. Clair River conveyance capacity and contributed to the very low water we experienced between 1998 and 2013.

During the high water of August 2020, the St. Clair River flow reached an unprecedented flow rate of 7,340 cubic metres per second, breaking the 1986 record by 9%. Again, it appears that St. Clair River erosion has occurred, although this cannot be confirmed until the USACE completes its bathymetry (depth) surveys. This winter, after ice formed, a St. Clair River ice jam in early February caused the flow rate to plummet from 7,000 cubic metres per second to 4,000 (a 43% reduction).

These events are almost identical to those of 1986 and will likely further exacerbate our next period of low water.”

GBGLF provides links to reports and data from many researchers.