Norfolk County council is taking a wait and see approach to the situation on Hastings Drive in Long Point.
Property owner Mary Weber made a public deputation to council on Tuesday asking for those who own vacant lots on the 3.2 kilometre strip of land be able to park trailers and RVs on their properties.
The land that sits on the shore of the Inner Bay was home to a number of cottages before a large storm in 1985 wrecked and damaged several structures. Fearing another weather event would endanger the structures and people in them, the Haldimand-Norfolk Region imposed a hazardous land designation.
In recent years, an estimated 11 owners have parked trailers on their lots and left them for much of the summer season. Trailers are considered to be vehicles and were deemed a legal non-conforming use of the land.
In the days following the Oct. 28 municipal election, 16 charges were handed to land owners, most for having trailers on their property which goes against a 2014 Norfolk by-law.
There are 24 cottages in total on Hastings Dr., 75 lots are privately owned and 47 are owned by Norfolk County.
“Please do the right thing here,” Weber urged council. “I’m not asking you to allow us to build three storey condos, dig up deep basements or put up street lights, I’m asking you to save the county hundreds of thousands of dollars in litigation costs and allow what has been allowed by this county since at least 1985. These recreational vehicles are as much of the colour of the landscape on Hastings Drive as the (24) cottages are. In fact, they are as much a part of the landscape on the rest of Long Point as those 800 cottages are.”
A 2018 decision by the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal – an agency that replaced the Ontario Municipal Board – said that all new development on Hastings is forbidden because the land is declared hazard land. The LPAT decision did not deal with the suggestion that camping trailers, RVs and the like count as a legal non-conforming use and thus should be allowed.
Waterford Councillor Kim Huffman noted that some property owners purchased their land following 1985 knowing it was designated hazardous.
“To me, that’s two different issues, that you had people that owned their property, had a structure on it, the structure was lost and then we have people who bought (land) after,” she said.
Weber said she doesn’t think there’s a difference between the two.
“People bought lots (after 1985) because they wanted to fish, they wanted to launch boats so there’s no difference between people who have a lot that has been in their family for generations, or people who just bought a lot ten years ago with the hope of spending the day on their property,” Weber said.
“Respectively, there is a little bit of a difference,” Huffman replied.
Stephen Corke of Brantford – whose family owns two lots – also spoke at Tuesday’s council meeting.
“Our lot and many others are referred to as vacant lots,” he said. “We’ve never considered it a vacant lot, we never considered it abandoned. We feel we have uses established with it from 1940 on.”
Long Point and area councillor Tom Masschaele said he finds the situation “troubling”.
“We’re here today and some very good people who are residents of Norfolk County have actually had to come here to plead to council to have their rights as property owners listened to,” he said.
Masschaele made a motion that Norfolk wait for a ruling in a civil action against Norfolk by Randy Mawhiney of St. Williams before proceeding on the issue. Mawhiney, who owns vacant lots on Hastings Drive, is challenging Norfolk’s current restrictions.
Masschaele also suggested Norfolk withdraw from those proceedings.
The motion was seconded by Simcoe councillor Ian Rabbitts and agreed upon unanimously.
Weber applauded council for hearing the case of lot owners.
“I think it’s moving forward because we have a council that is at least considering both sides of the story,” she said. “In my option, our old council was very much against anything on Hastings Drive. I look at this as a step forward, baby steps – it’s all going to be baby steps – but there were great questions, people wanted clarification and they’re willing to listen.”