Council amends building permit freeze for some of Tobacco Lake

GORDON/BARRIE ISLAND – Gordon/Barrie Island Township council has amended a building permit freeze on an area of Tobacco Lake to allow for improvements to be made on current buildings.

“We made a major decision at our council meeting, voting in favour of amending the bylaw for the building freeze that has been in place for many years in the old part of Tobacco Lake,” Lee Hayden, reeve of Gordon/Barrie Island told the Recorder late last week. “This situation has been in place many years with property lines having not been determined so property owners have not had definite clear title to their property.”

Reeve Hayden said council had hoped that by putting the previous building permit freeze in place many years ago it would mean the property owners themselves, or as a group, would hire a surveyor to come in and survey the properties. He said descriptions on the property deeds have been vague on the oldest part of Tobacco Lake. However, he pointed out the property owners have not had a surveyor brought in to carry out survey work on the properties. 

“At our council meeting (last week) we decided to lift the building permit freeze to allow for renovations only on the current buildings on the same footprint,” stated Reeve Hayden. However, he added, “this doesn’t solve the issue of the property owners having clear title to their lands. The overall value of their property is subject to this. And it is up to them to get together and have a surveyor brought in and create the boundaries.”

Reeve Hayden explained, “what this all means is that there were a lot of legal non-conforming building that took place on the shoreline (of Tobacco Lake) before the Manitoulin Planning Board (MPB) came into existence. This practice took place in the 1940s and 1950s, and maybe even earlier. So, by taking the action council did to amend the building freeze to allow for renovation work to be carried out it is not going to fix the problem, it only helps a little. I’m not sure what the solution is going to need to be.”
Reeve Hayden noted as well the building permit freeze amendment, “it means that the property and buildings can be renovated to code. This is a safety issue we want the residents to be living in safe camps.”

“This was a big decision for council to make,” said Reeve Hayden. “People want to get permits to do work on their buildings but we couldn’t have the chief building official issue these permits. And there are many lots there where property has been handed down in a family but there is not a clear description on the property. Our (council’s recent decision) still hasn’t solved this problem.”

“This has probably been the most nagging issue that has faced council for a lot of years,” said Reeve Hayden. “And it is not going away—it alleviates our liability (as a municipality). It hasn’t fixed the problem. It is a unique problem.”