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Belwood, Conestogo lake cottagers seek court decision on MOECC request

Cottagers seek court ruling - Keith McKee, president of the Belwood Lake Cottagers Association, says an $800 fee for an environmental compliance approval (ECA) is a “tax grab.” The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has determined 735 lots at Belwood and Conestogo lakes are one lot and require the ECA. The associations are seeking a court ruling on the matter.  Photo by Olivia Rutt

Belwood, Conestogo lake cottagers seek court decision on MOECC request

by Olivia Rutt

BELWOOD - The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) is requiring 735 cottages at Belwood and Conestogo lakes to obtain an environmental compliance approval (ECA) due to the high volumes being treated in septic systems. Each application costs $800.

Keith McKee, president of the Belwood Lake Cottagers Association, calls the request a “tax grab.”

At each lake the MOECC has decided the cottages reside on one parcel of land, resulting in over 10,000 litres of wastewater per day into septic systems.

The cottages are in a land-lease community, meaning cottages are owned by residents, but the land is owned by the Grand River Conservation Area. Residents are allowed to live in the cottages full-time seven months of the year.

The cottage associations are seeking a court ruling to determine if they are individual lots or one parcel of land.

McKee said talks started with the MOECC in 2014, resulting in years of back and forth conversations. During that time, McKee said any cottage requiring a building permit was required to obtain an ECA before the permit could be issued.

“They have recently sent out packages to everybody saying you will be required to obtain an ECA, which has forced us to petition the courts to have a decision as to whether we are one parcel of land or whether we are separate lots ...” said McKee.

“Other government agencies treat us as separate lots, although the MOECC is attempting to classify us as one parcel of land.”

McKee said after residents pay $800 for the application, they then need to hire a professional engineer, licenced by the MOECC, to inspect the septic tank.

“We have heard guesstimates for a professional engineer to come out anywhere from $600 to $1,500,” he said.

McKee said the MOECC is the only government body that views the land as one lot.

“MPAC assesses each individual lot for land tax values, payable by the cottager and collected by the GRCA. The Landlord and Tenant Act, which approved our lease agreement, identifies each lot as an individual lot in a land-lease community. The local townships for both lakes also recognize the individual lots when issuing building permits and open air burn permits,” said McKee.

“The only government branch not willing to recognize our individual lots is the MOECC, because it will negatively impact their potential revenue.”

Ministry spokesman Gary Wheeler said 75 per cent of the cottage lots around both lakes have unapproved septic systems.  

“To help bring the cottage lots into compliance with applicable provincial legislation each individual sewage system must obtain an environmental compliance approval from the ministry or possess a pre-1998 use permit through the municipality,” he said.

“The GRCA’s cottage lease program was developed without the benefit of a registered plan of subdivision or a legally registered survey. As a result, the leased lots are not legally registered on title as separate lots or parcels.

“Cottages located at each lake are considered to be on one parcel of land and therefore the collective capacity of the cottage septic systems is in excess of 10,000 litres per day, triggering the approval requirement.”

McKee said the association is now filing paperwork for the legal process.

July 21, 2017

 
 

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