Province Fights Rondeau Heritage Bylaw

Dan Currie of MHPC Planning (left) and Rondeau Cottager's Association President Dr. David Colby (right) during an OMB hearing in Chatham-Kent Council Chambers, June 15, 2016 (Photo by Jake Kislinsky)

Rondeau cottagers will have to wait four to six weeks to see if their cottages’ heritage designation is going to stick around.

Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) Vice-Chair Steve Stefanko heard from the Municipality of Chatham-Kent and the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) on Wednesday, regarding CK’s heritage bylaw imposed on the cottage community late last year.

“The parks of Ontario belong to the people of Ontario,” says Rondeau Cottager’s Association President David Colby. “It’s for their use and enjoyment. The charter of Rondeau Park was to be developed as a health resource from the very get-go.”

During the hearing on Wednesday, MNR legal counsel Brian Wilkie pointed to legislation that states the municipality doesn’t have authority to impose heritage bylaws on provincially-owned lands.

The situation becomes complicated, however, because while Ontario owns the property the cottages sit on, the occupants of the cottages own the structures themselves. Cottagers also pay a fee to the municipality of Chatham-Kent, in lieu of taxes.

Back in 2010, the province introduced “Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Provincial Heritage Properties,” which included the Ontario government evaluating properties that would receive heritage designation. Concerned about whether or not the Rondeau cottages would be involved in the evaluations, Colby emailed Ontario Parks for an answer. The association president says the only response he got claimed the cottages wouldn’t be investigated, because the buildings themselves don’t belong to the province.

CK’s Chief Legal Officer John Norton argued that, by not investigating and evaluating the cottages, the province didn’t fulfill it’s obligations. This is because a section of those standards requires them to “develop a review process.”

Norton says investigating and eventually passing the bylaw was justified, because the Ontario government had no plans to see if the cottages were worth heritage designation. He claims parts of the Heritage Act says municipalities can impose bylaws on provincial property, but the province doesn’t have to adhere to the rules of said bylaw.

“We have a strong believe that the cottage community in Rondeau is worth preserving, and it doesn’t make sense to us why the province doesn’t want to preserve it,”says Norton. “We hope the chairman today heard our arguments, I think they’re good legal arguments, and I hope he will rule in our favour.”

Also taking part in the hearing was Chatham-Kent resident Linda Hind, and lawyer David Kerwin, who represents the Rondeau Cottager’s Association.

The OMB’s Steve Stefanko will consider the arguments presented, and report back at a later date.