• Hunter Cresswell

Questions still swirl around dock laws

The municipality of Chelsea opened Pandora’s Box when it set out to regulate docks along Gatineau River.


Docks like these have long dotted the banks of the Gatineau River in Chelsea, and the municipality is still working on the draft bylaw that would regulate them. Low Down file photo

The issue is complicated to begin with, but the waters are further muddied with the issues of private waterfront ownership, waterfront owners allowing their buddies to build docks on their land and the fact that unpermitted docks have been a part of Chelsea life for decades.


Because of this, The Low Down took questions – doubtlessly the same ones Chelsea waterfront residents or unpermitted dock owners are wondering themselves –

about specific scenarios to the municipality asking if people who fall in that category can get or keep their docks, and what hoops they’ll have to jump through to do so.


The Low Down asked if people with unpermitted docks along the community trail will be able to apply to keep them; if people with unpermitted docks along River Road will be able to keep them; if people without waterfront property will be able to get a dock; if full-time Chelsea residents will be given priority to get a dock before cottagers, and more.


“Nothing has been decided yet regarding the questions you are asking us about the docks, so we cannot answer,” Chelsea communications agent Maude Prud’homme-Séguin wrote in an email.


She added that the Chelsea council has received comments and feedback from residents on public access to the river, so they have decided to delve into that before finalizing the dock bylaw.


Last month Chelsea announced tweaks to 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.


Two scenarios were removed from the draft bylaw. They apply to people who own waterfront property and those whose waterfront property is bisected by the community trail. Despite being taken out of the draft bylaw, these owners still must ensure that their docks comply with the bylaw.


That announcement in November also stated that the municipality would no longer sell shallow submerged property along the waterfront to adjacent private owners. Mayor Caryl Green previously told The Low Down that not selling the property will facilitate shoreline inspections, municipal surveys and any work that may be required in the future.


Chelsea opened up this whole can of worms while seeking to purchase Hydro-Québec waterfront property.


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.


Public access public consultation


A date hasn’t been set for Chelsea’s public consultation on public river access once the municipality takes ownership of the Hydro-Québec waterfront land, but it is supposed to take place in early 2021.


“The purpose of this consultation will be to identify potential public sites along the Gatineau River for a rest or picnic area with a view of the river with access to the water, access to the water for swimming and a public dock, and a boat launch with parking,” Prud’homme-Séguin wrote.


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