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  • Madeline Kerr

Not on the agenda: Chelsea dock bylaw in effect

Chelsea’s controversial dock bylaw, which was temporarily shelved last spring, is coming into effect on April 15 without amendments or further public consultation. 

 

Although the municipality now says it won’t remove any docks until 2027, by which time it plans to have secured public river access for all residents, community dock users in Farm Point remain frustrated that their historical connection to the river is being overlooked.  


Jennifer Haire is a resident of Winnisec Road, which has shared a community dock – also referred to as “road docks” – for over 40 years. That dock will either be turned over to the municipality or removed, based on the new bylaw. 


During a council meeting on April 2, Haire told council that “residents share docks as a means of providing access, addressing issues of capacity and as a means of protecting the river and shoreline.” 


“Residents who have had docks for many, many years – we are really stewards of the river,” she added.  


“It has been wonderful to have a community road dock, which serves 30 homes – around 75-80 residents – where all generations can swim, socialize, launch our [boats]...and take our dogs for a swim,” Haire recently told the Low Down. “We take great care to maintain our dock and the river bank and…we feel that we are in a better position to do this than the municipality.”


 Under the bylaw, there are two scenarios where Chelsea residents will be allowed to continue to install their docks in the Gatineau River: if they own riverfront property or property directly adjacent to the river.


Docks that do not fall into these scenarios are known as “scenario three” docks and Scenario three docks are shared by residents in a particular neighbourhood or along the same road near the river. Under the bylaw, these docks will either be taken over by the municipality or removed by 2027. 


At a council meeting on April 2, Chelsea director-general Sheena Ngalle Miano told residents the municipality will take a staged approach to implementing the bylaw, beginning with assessments of docks in 2025 and 2026. Miano added that the municipality would ensure there is a public access point to the river before removing any docks that are not permitted according to the bylaw. 


Currently there is no official public access point along the river in Chelsea. Although there is a widely shared dock located in front of the community centre in Farm Point, this is not an official public dock for use by the whole municipality. 


This year, the municipality committed $100,000 to determining where to locate an access point for residents of the whole municipality. 


Farm Point councillor silent during meeting 

In an email to some of her constituents prior to the April 2 meeting, councillor for Farm Point, Rita Jain, said that she planned to speak out concerning the dock bylaw and “offer the same amendment as I did last time to allow people to apply for community docks. But I know it will be voted down. [Secondly, I will] vote against the bylaw with a fiery speech, including [information about] the guardrails [blocking some residents from their docks].”


Jain told the Low Down after the meeting that she was unable to say anything because there was no resolution relating to the bylaw on the agenda.  


Jain added she is disappointed by the dock bylaw. She said that she doesn’t believe Farm Point’s community docks are likely to be municipalized and will be removed entirely instead, explaining: “Given the complexity to install our first [forthcoming] public dock, I doubt that these will be up to municipal standards, therefore hundreds of residents will lose access."


“Last year, I proposed an amendment to the dock bylaw to allow for the community docks at council’s discretion…but it was not adopted,” Jain said. 


When the bylaw was tabled at council in 2022, Coun. Jain abstained from voting, citing a conflict of interest because she is a dock owner. The bylaw was passed by a vote of 3-2. 


“Ultimately, this river is for everyone, and we should be providing public access before even considering removing access,” Jain added. “The staggered timeline elongated over four years will help, but there are still some issues to resolve in the meantime.” 


According to the municipality, the last inventory of Chelsea docks took place in 2016 and may no longer be up-to-date. The estimated cost budget for implementing the bylaw has not yet been determined and will depend on “the exact number of docks to be processed, regularized, converted into public docks or removed from the riverfront,” according to a statement. 


Chelsea’s Environment department and the Planning and Sustainable Development department will be in charge of enforcing regulations. 


Cantley property-owners shut out

At the April 2 meeting, a few property owners with cottages on the Cantley side of the Gatineau River expressed feelings of being left out of the conversation and shared concerns they will lose access to their land. 


Eight properties along the river in Cantley have no road access and are only accessible by boat from the Chelsea side. Property owners have to use Chelsea docks and often leave their boats tied up along the shoreline, but they say it’s unclear they will be allowed to continue doing so under the new bylaw. 


To add insult to injury, the newly constructed continuous guardrail along River Road has taken away parking for some of these Cantley cottagers and made it difficult for them to access the river at all, they say.


Donna Warren, with a cottage on the Cantley side, told council that, on top of now needing to find someone to rent parking to her, she will also be forced to haul her supplies further to get to the river and climb over a guardrail, a challenging if not impossible feat because “as you can see, I’m short,” Warren said. 


She added that she finds council’s decision “despicable” and added, “We will be suing for damages and costs.” 

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