• Hunter Cresswell

Chelsea won't sell waterfront

Public access consultation to come in early-2021


The municipality of Chelsea rescinded its offer to sell shallow submerged Gatineau Riverfront property back to residents.


The announcement appeared in a press release published on the municipal website on Nov. 23. The release stated that the decision was made after the municipality met with over 50 residents in order to standardize the waterfront lots in Chelsea.


The Chelsea council unanimously voted to purchase 1.89 million square metres of Gatineau River waterfront property, highlighted in green on this map, from Hydro-Québec for $47,426 in January 2020. Image courtesy of the municipality of Chelsea

“Based on the results of the online consultation and staff recommendations, council decided to retain ownership of the lots purchased from Hydro-Québec. Retaining ownership of these lots will facilitate shoreline inspections, municipal surveys and any work that may be required in the future,” Chelsea Mayor Caryl Green wrote in an email.


Gatineau-based notary Katherine Lauzon confirmed by email that private citizens can own underwater land as long as it’s non-navigable — so shallow that one can’t pilot a boat through it.


“If the water is navigable, we have to refer to the federal law, [the] Canadian Navigable Waters Act,” she wrote in an email.


The Nov. 23 release also announced that two “scenarios” had been withdrawn from the draft bylaw.


The original draft bylaw that the Chelsea council tabled in August included different scenarios for waterfront ownership. Different scenarios of waterfront ownership can require dock owners to get a permit for their dock, lease land yearly for $200 from Chelsea if the dock is attached to municipal land, or get a “permission for occupancy” if the dock is attached to either the community trail or River Road.


The two removed “scenarios” apply to people who own waterfront property and those whose waterfront property is bisected by the community trail.


“The draft bylaw relates to docks and infrastructure located on municipal property; scenarios 1 and 2 concern docks on privately-owned property,” Green wrote when asked why those scenarios were removed.


But landowners who fall in those “scenarios” must ensure that their docks comply with existing bylaws, she added.


“Many dock owners already have a permit; for those who don’t, municipal staff will help property owners in the process to regulate their docks,” Green wrote.


Dock regulations in Chelsea go back to 1999, but dock construction and usage along the river goes further back in time.


What will happen to those old docks? Will people have to rip them up or bring them into compliance with the draft bylaw once it’s finalized?


“The municipality will recognize an acquired right if the property owner can prove that the dock existed before the 1999 regulations or that it complies with the regulations in place at the time it was built. It is the responsibility of the owner to submit to municipal staff valid documents that will allow the recognition of acquired rights,” Green wrote.


The Chelsea council unanimously voted to purchase 1.89 million square metres of Gatineau River waterfront property from Hydro-Québec for $47,426 in January. The plan is to provide public river access and to regulate unpermitted docks that dot the riverside.


The first public consultation on the purchase took place in February and focused on the purchase itself. That in-person consultation packed a room in the upstairs of the Meredith Centre, but the coming consultation in early 2021 may be held virtually in order to comply with COVID-19-related health regulations.


The deal with the energy giant will be sealed once the deed of sale is notarized.


When asked about why the process has taken so long, Green explained: “As with any purchase, there were several details to verify, such as any existing rights of way and servitudes. Everything has been finalized and we expect to sign the documents the week of Dec. 7.”


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