Central Manitoulin council defers decision on Dominion Bay ‘no overnight camping’ signs

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CENTRAL MANITOULIN – A recommendation to install ‘no overnight camping’ signs on municipal property at the Dominion Bay subdivision was presented at the January 14 meeting of Central Manitoulin council. The motion came in response to concerns expressed by area resident Mike Wilton who had observed off-Island campers setting up there during the summer. The campers had expressed to the resident that they believed they had the right to camp there as the property was Crown land. (It is not, the land is owned by the municipality.)

As discussion on the motion began, Councillor Derek Stephens noted that there were concerns and issues that only applied to the piece of municipal property in question. The deeds of property owners in the area contain provisions citing that particular piece of property is “for their enjoyment,” granting them access and the use of that property. He noted that the complaints have come from only two of the 35-plus owners and the wishes of the other property owners have not been sought. “We shouldn’t be making a bylaw without discussing it with the property owners,” he said. He added that, to his knowledge, this is the only piece of municipal property so encumbered. “Nobody has deeded rights to Providence Bay or Mindemoya, these property owners have a deeded right to be on that property.”

Councillor Johnston asked if the custodial care bylaw stemming from the 1990 Land Agreement that prohibits camping along the shoreline allowances applies in this case.

CAO/clerk Ruth Frawley said the bylaw applies to the property in front of residences, but the property in question is not in front of the majority of property owners with deeded access. She noted that the people camping were largely from Toronto, apparently among those fleeing from the pandemic in the city and supplied that they believed the property was Crown land. 

“Signs would certainly alleviate that perception,” said Mayor Richard Stephens, suggesting that a letter be sent to the property owners who might be impacted by the decision.

“We have the right to limit access to municipal property,” said Councillor Shaffer, “I am not sure we have the right to limit the property owners who have access.”

Councillor Al Tribinevicius noted that the issue was rampant on the Island during the summer as people “would see a little road and put their tents down there. They did not know the difference (between municipal property or Crown land).” He did, however, caution patience. “I think we should wait to hear from the property owners.”

Councillor Rose Diebolt agreed.

Councillor Dale Scott said he was unsure that the municipality should be allowing camping on municipal property in any event. Should extended family members of the property owners take advantage of that, “people could see people camping there and it would become a campground.”

A decision was deferred until the impacted property owners could be canvassed.