Town won't (can't legally) enforce beach bylaw on private property
The Town of South Bruce Peninsula will not be enforcing its dynamic beach bylaw on private property.
In a news release issued Wednesday morning it was announced that the town had received two legal opinions - one in 2009 and another dated Monday - explaining that the bylaw, which establishes rules for the use of town-owned beach property, does not apply to private property unless permission is received from the private property owner. The rules in the bylaw includes prohibitions on driving a motor vehicle, using a generator, walking a dog during certain times of the year, camping, damaging grass or plants, consuming alcohol, cooking, setting fires, depositing litter, building a structure or offering items for sale.
Clerk-administrator Angie Cathrae said Wednesday she could not say why the town sought the legal opinions, but a letter from the town's solicitor, Miller Thomson Lawyers, attached to the news release details the beach property owned by the Sauble Beach Development Corporation located from 5th and 6th streets and roughly 316 feet west of Lakeshore Blvd.
Joe Szewczyk, who is listed as the owner of the property along with Sauble Beach Development Corporation, said Wednesday he is hopeful the decision by the town will put an end to what he called harassment and "ongoing interference with our family enjoyment and privacy."
The property has been the subject of protests over a locked gate that was built on the property. A group of neighbours from a nearby subdivision called Pine Grove Park claim an 80-plus-year-old covenant in their deeds grant them the authority to direct what may happen on the privately owned section of the beach, which is within the old subdivision boundary. A committee was formed and directives were established saying "it is not in the best interest of the lot owners in Pine Grove Park (Sauble Beach) and the beach welfare in general to allow any vehicular traffic on the beachfront" between 5th and 6th streets and bounded from Lakeshore Blvd. to the lake. John Strachan, who has been leading the protest over the gate could not be reached Wednesday by press time.
In the letter from Miller Thomson's Steven O'Melia released Wednesday, it states that it is understood that "a number of disputes have arisen with respect to the use of the (Sauble Beach Development Corporation) Property by its Owner and that Council has been asked to enforce the By-law against it."
The legal opinion states that the bylaw could extend to privately owned beach properties where the owners of those properties authorize the town to do so. Such an agreement was entered into in 2000 in which the owner authorized the town to enforce the "no dogs on the beach" portion of the bylaw on the property, but that agreement is no longer in effect. As of Jan. 24, the owner provided the town with a letter prohibiting any employees or contractors of the town from entering onto the property and therefore the bylaw no longer applies to the property, the opinion states. Szewczyk said a letter was drawn up stopping the town from entering the property "without notice" to stop the town from doing any work on the property without first getting permission.
Cathrae said the property is the same as any other private property in that any land use of a property can be determined by the owner within the zoning parameters. The current zoning of the property is environmental hazard, a very restrictive zoning which allows for limited uses including conservation, forest management, fish and wildlife management, flood control, erosion control, passive recreation and existing agricultural uses.
The legal opinion from Miller Thomson states the zoning "would permit the passive use and enjoyment of the Property by the Owner, and would not preclude the use of a motor vehicle to reach the Property or move around on it."
Szewczyk said he has no plans for the property and won't restrict public access to it.
"We never prohibited anyone prior to all this nonsense," Szewczyk said.
"We are just hoping that this puts an end to all this nonsense, which costs valuable lawyer time, quality time and also the town administrative time."
Szewczyk said the gate has been vandalized on numerous occasions including being dismantled and moved, locks being tampered with and chains cut. He pegged the damage at as much as $5,000 to $10,000 and police have been contacted.
"We are hoping with this decision, those people who have been sabotaging the gate will cease because we have the right to put it up," Szewczyk said.
Man Brings Charges Against Mayor
Owen Sound Sun Times
October 24, 2012
By Rob Gowan
A Sauble Beach man has brought charges of obstruction of justice against South Bruce Peninsula
Mayor John Close.
John Strachan is alleging that Close obstructed justice by instructing the bylaw enforcement
officer to not enforce the town's dynamic beach bylaw against Joe Szewczyk, who owns a property
on the beach.
"I asked the town to charge ( Szewczyk) for driving on the beach and they told me that they have
been instructed not to charge and that's what started this against Close," said Strachan.
Strachan said Tuesday the only reason he proceeded with the charge, which he brought before
the courts himself, is that he wasn't taken seriously by town officials and he wants to make sure
the laws are followed.
"Number 1, we do want to protect our beach," he said.
Strachan claims Szewczyk has been driving on the beach, which under the town's dynamic beach
bylaw is prohibited. The bylaw prohibits certain actions on the beach including driving a motor
vehicle, camping, consuming alcohol, cooking and setting fires.
Calls to Close on Monday and Tuesday were not returned by press time on Tuesday.
Just last week the town announced it had received two legal opinions that the bylaw did not apply
to private property unless permission is received from the property owner. In a news release the
town announced it would not be enforcing the bylaw on private property.
Szewczyk owns a property along with Sauble Beach Development Corporation from 5th to 6th
streets and roughly 316 feet west of Lakeshore Blvd.
Szewczyk said last week that he was hopeful the decision by the town would put an end to what
he called harassment and "ongoing interference with our family enjoyment and privacy."
The property has been the subject of protests over a locked gate that was built on the property. A
group of neighbours from a nearby subdivision called Pine Grove Park claim an 80-plusyear-old
covenant in their deeds grant them the authority to direct what may happen on the privately
owned section of the beach, which is within the old subdivision boundary. A committee was
formed and directives were established saying "it is not in the best interest of the lot owners in
Pine Grove Park (Sauble Beach) and the beach welfare in general to allow any vehicular traffic on
the beachfront" between 5th and 6th streets and bounded from Lakeshore Blvd. to the lake.
Szewczyk has said he only wants to be able to drive on his section of the beach and has no plans
for the property, which is zoned environmental hazard which is very restrictive in the potential
uses of the property.
Court staff said Close was served notice of the charge on Oct. 18. His first appearance in
provincial court is scheduled for Nov. 15 at 9: 30 a. m. David Foulds, counsel for the Office of the
Director of Crown Operations for West Region in London, said the case has been sent from the
Owen Sound office to the regional office for assignment.
Sauble Dynamic Beach By-Law
Thursday, December 20, 2012 5:16 am
South Bruce Peninsula council is not changing its stance on its controversial dynamic beach by-law.The by-law restricts activities and development on Sauble Beach, but council won't enforce the by-law on private property, specifically in the case of the Sauble Beach Development corporation, who have driven their vehicles on their privately-owned portion of the beach.
Councillor Janice Jackson is against leaving private property alone, but says if that's going to be case, there needs to be clear boundaries of where private property meets public property so those who are driving on the beach stay on private property.
Jackson says she's concerned there's environmental and safety hazards involved with cars on the beach getting too close to people.