Chelsea finalizes dock law
Council lowers dock fee
Some Chelsea residents who spoke up during a recent council meeting weren’t happy with the dock bylaw, but the council that represents them passed it anyway.
During the Sept. 7 council meeting question period, residents brought forward their concerns about the dock fees being too high, community or road association docks being converted into general public docks, impact of public docks on nearby residents, and people unable to take part in the online meeting to share their input.
Multiple residents suggested pushing off this decision until after the coming municipal election this fall.
“We went from – right at the beginning – nothing’s going to change; that’s what you said at our Farm Point community meeting,” Penny Allen told Mayor Caryl Green, “to ... it’s going to be $200 per permit and now we’re up to $500. So I can’t believe at this point, you’re not willing to listen to what your people have to say.”
Another Farm Point resident said he went door to door in Farm Point asking his senior neighbours about the dock bylaw. He said some said they couldn’t access Zoom council meetings to make their voices heard despite having concerns about the bylaw.
“How do we accommodate the older people who are not on the internet?” the resident asked Green.
She said that information on the bylaw was included in the municipal newsletter that is mailed to residents.
After 36 minutes discussing the topic, council voted five to one in favour of the controversial and long-awaited regulation governing docks on municipal waterfront, including the community trail and Chemin de la Rivière. Ward 1 councillor Simon Joubarne cast the dissenting vote.
“After many months of consulting with residents on the different scenarios, yes, council is glad to have adopted this bylaw, which will give residents greater access to the Gatineau River,” Green wrote The Low Down.
But shortly before that final vote, council voted down the bylaw completely.
At the beginning of council’s discussion on Sept. 7, the yearly lease fee to have a dock on municipal property was $500. Ward 6 councillor Kimberly Chan proposed bringing that fee down.
“I’ve never been comfortable with the $500, I think it’s too much,” she said, proposing an amendment to bring the fee down to $350.
Ward 3 councillor Greg McGuire disagreed and said that private dock access on the Gatineau River in Chelsea is worth much more than $500, so he wouldn’t support that amendment.
In a vote to amend the bylaw with Chan’s proposed $350 fee, only Chan and Ward 5 councillor Jean-Paul Leduc voted for the amendment.
This process could be confusing to people who don’t know municipal law or attend council meetings often. When councillors propose amendments to bylaws or resolutions, the council first votes for or against that amendment. If the proposed amendment is approved, the council then votes on the amended bylaw.
Council then moved on to vote on the original bylaw without amendments, and it was rejected. Council voted two to four against the dock bylaw with McGuire and Ward 4 councillor Kay Kerman voting for the unamended bylaw and Chan, Leduc, Joubarne, and Ward 2 councillor Pierre Guénard voting against it.
McGuire immediately proposed amending the rejected bylaw with a $450 yearly lease fee for a dock. Kerman seconded his proposal, but Joubarne took issue with the process.
“You can’t start changing the vote,” he said, raising a point of order, which is legalese for pointing out a rule violation during a meeting.
Mayor Caryl Green asked Chelsea director general John David McFaul if going back to amend a voted-down bylaw is allowed.
“It’s not the first time we’ve done it,” he responded.
But that amendment was also voted down, with only McGuire and Kerman voting for it.
Leduc then proposed another amendment — a $400 yearly lease fee. McGuire, Kerman, Leduc, and Guénard voted in favour. Chan voted against the amendment and Joubarne was on video and audio mute at that point, so he didn’t cast a vote. But he soon came back to raise another point of order.
“This is such an important resolution for people in Chelsea, for people living around the river. It’s so poorly managed right now, I’ve never seen anything so poorly managed. What are we doing? There are 30 people looking at us right now, it’s incomprehensible and unacceptable, and I will not vote on something so unclear,” Joubarne stated.
McGuire described the discussion and changes to the dock bylaw as “democratic process at its best.”
“For me, it wasn’t to end the discussion in an auction,” Chan said.
Council then approved the bylaw, amended with a $400 yearly lease fee, with a vote of five to one.
“Council decided that the funds raised from these lease agreements each year would go to fund the public/community access projects on the Gatineau River,” Green wrote.
Chelsea will finalize the full dock application process this fall ahead of the bylaw coming into force in the new year. Staff will assist residents through the process, but it will be the applicants’ responsibility to show that their docks meet the bylaw criteria, she explained.
“Clearly, this bylaw will require a significant amount of staff time. The municipality is currently evaluating the workload; a decision will be made during the 2022 budget process,” Green said, when asked if a new staff position will be required to handle the docks file.
The full bylaw is available in English on the municipal website, chelsea.ca.