Adding insult to injury

TBL council is facing a thorny decision (see article A Case for Peace and Quiet). A boaters’ association is asking the town for a minor derogation to expand the size of a wharf at the end of Cedar Bay Rd to allow more boats to dock farther into the lake.

In 2004, allowing that wharf in that residential zone caused quite a stir. In an editorial called The Cedar Bay Calamity, dated March 2005, Tempo wrote “In such a zone, a wharf is dependent on the existence of a residence (…). There is no residence on lot 928-P. In the zoning bylaw, R-10 (Brome Lake) regulates aquatic activities on the lake – there is no reference to wharves. A marina is not permitted.”

More than 70 servitudes of access to the lake later, the Cedar Bay Road residents’ expectation of peaceful enjoyment of their property on nice summer days is now wishful thinking.

In their request to council, the boaters’ association promises to better regulate the traffic and parking on Cedar Bay Rd. The problem is that based on their 13-year bitter experience, the residents do not believe this will happen.

Council now has to decide between the lesser of two evils. Whether it grants the derogation or not, the disruption on Cedar Bay Rd will not stop. The issue becomes how to make it more bearable for the residents of Cedar Bay.

Before deciding, council must answer two key questions. Would refusing the derogation cause a “serious prejudice” to the claimant? Tempo thinks not. Would granting it undermine the right of adjoining property owners (“propriétaires des immeubles voisins”) to peaceful enjoyment of their property? Tempo thinks yes.

In its March 2005 editorial, Tempo further wrote: “In essence we have a company buying a privately-owned piece of residential land that happens to include a right-of-way, and virtually turning it into a driveway and parking lot with room for cars and boat trailers serving an area of multiple homes.(…) Cedar Bay has all the trappings of a tragedy in progress.” Prescient.

To say yes to the Association, would mean council gives the owner and the association another chance and hopes that the area will be better run in the future without any guarantee to that effect. It sends the message that the town’s 2004 decision, though it cannot be reversed, was the right one. It would also signal that, in principle, more motor boats is OK on a lake that is fragile and struggling with erosion that the town is, on the other hand, trying to mitigate with the help of Renaissance Lac Brome.

In the short term, to refuse the derogation in this election year will likely displease the owner of the disputed area and the boaters association. Long term, saying no would send the message that this council does not agree with the 2004 decision. A bad decision cannot be improved by adding another bad one on top of it. Only adding insult to injury.

Tempo is of the opinion that the derogation should not be granted.

But, granted or not, safety rules on Cedar Bay Rd. have to be enforced to allow the passage of emergency vehicles, First Responders, fire and ambulance, at all times. People’s security and safety must come first. If civility cannot be regulated, noise levels can and they should be throughout the MRC including Cedar Bay Rd.

This is a test of political will. And to paraphrase the 2005 Tempo editorial, wouldn’t it be nice if our mayor and council agree that “The first responsibility of a councillor must be to assure the well-being of citizens and to be attuned to their concerns.”

Always true even 12 years later.