The by-law respecting docks and conditions of occupancy of the municipal land bordering the Gatineau River will officially come into force on April 15, 2023. The date should be made official at next Tuesday's Council meeting.
The objective of this by-law is to regularize the issue of existing private docks on municipal land in order to provide public access to the river for all Chelsea residents and to support the environmental protection of the riverbanks. The by-law provides for three scenarios for which a permission of occupation and a dock permit could be granted. It does not apply to private docks located on private property.
In order to allow for a gradual implementation of the new by-law, the Municipal Council intends to have an implementation plan divided into annual phases until 2027. The first phase will be carried out in 2023 and will allow for an inventory of docks and open dialogue with associations, residents' groups and residents with docks in the municipal right-of-way. Information sessions will be organized to allow residents to make a choice for the future of their dock. No docks corresponding to the scenarios described in the by-law will be removed in this first phase. Only those property owners whose dock locations do not provide opportunities to obtain a permission of occupation or a dock permit will be notified to remove their docks.
In order to determine which private docks on municipal property may be retained and which must be removed, the by-law sets out three scenarios. The first two scenarios provide that an occupancy permit and a dock permit could be granted on municipal land:
Private dock owners authorized to keep their docks on municipal property will be required to sign an annual lease with the Municipality at a cost of $400 per year plus a one-time dock permit fee of $25. An identification plaque will also be required on all authorized docks. At this time, the Municipality estimates that the fee for this plate will be approximately $25. Municipal Council has requested that a budget envelope be created to hold the funds raised. The money will be used to fund the public river access project.
For all other private docks located on municipal land, but which do not correspond to scenarios one or two, the docks will have to be removed as specified in scenario three. However, it will be possible to propose them to the Municipality for conversion to a municipal dock. If this is the case, a case-by-case evaluation will be done to assess various criteria such as environmental impact, location, impact on the privacy of neighbors, accessibility, etc. Once the evaluation is complete, Municipal Council will decide which docks will be retained.
A first draft of the by-law was tabled in August 2020 by the previous Municipal Council. Council wanted residents to have a voice in the matter and help build a by-law that was fair to all. After more than a year of discussion, a revised version of the draft by-law was adopted in September 2021 with an effective date of January 1, 2022.
Following the 2021 municipal elections, the current municipal council decided to take the time to analyze the file and thus postpone the implementation date.