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Councillor Kelly's Statement on Access and Public Use of Constance Bay Beach

My office has received many questions about the City’s responsibility regarding access to and public use of the Constance Bay beach.


Issues about ownership and access have been ongoing for many years and have been exasperated with recent changes in property ownership and an increase in traffic to the community.


The first thing to make very clear is that the City of Ottawa does not own the beach or waterfront other than the 39 access points. 


As your Councillor, it is my job to provide you with answers based on discussions with the subject matter experts. What I cannot do is act as an enforcement arm for Bylaw Services, the Police, or other authorities such as MVCA or MNRF.


I have seen comments about how I am board member of the MVCA. That is true, the Ward 5 Councillor is always a member of the MVCA Board. But much like my role as Councillor, it does not allow me to enforce by-laws. My role on the board of the MVCA is mainly focused on governance and budget discussions, and I have no authority whatsoever to decide whether or not there has been an infraction of any kind or enforce rules and regulations.


I would like to encourage neighbours in Constance Bay to try to follow the good neighbour policy. Being respectful, being kind, and working collaboratively to avoid disagreements will only better serve our community and maintain the kind of atmosphere we have all come to know and love.


To that end, we have created a document to address many of these long-standing issues and to answer many of the questions we hear repeatedly. This will be a living document and will be updated accordingly. Updates will be posted here:  



As a non-water resident of Constance Bay, myself, who uses the water access points regularly, I certainly understand the importance of access to the water for community members. Given this long-standing tradition, I will say that I am personally disappointed in recent events where property owners have erected fencing blocking access to the beach. This has caused resentment in the community and seems disrespectful to neighbours to restrict access to areas that they have enjoyed for generations. This is especially true given the solidarity shown during flooding. It is further concerning that the access is being restricted to residents, while the property owner has promoted online the opportunity for her paying guests to walk miles and miles of beach. In the end, while it is not within my scope to allow access to private properties, the circumstances of the property being for income purposes make it additionally disappointing.


If you have any additional questions that are not addressed below, please send them to Clarke.kelly@ottawa.ca and we will respond and include them in updated versions.  

As I have mentioned previously, it is not possible to monitor all messages and posts across multiple social media platforms with many different groups across the ward. It is also against privacy rules to copy and paste content sent to me from social media and pass it along to City staff or outside agencies. The only way I can guarantee a response is if you go through the official channels of either emailing or calling the office at 613-580-2475.


Anyone who wants to discuss this in person face to face can reach out to find a time for us to sit down and I would be happy to do so.


To all my good neighbours, I hope this information is helpful.

 

1.  Who owns the Constance Bay Beach?

The City of Ottawa owns 39 road allowances (also known as access points) throughout Constance Bay. Beyond this, the City does not own, nor does it control any lands abutting the waterfront.

 

With that said, the City recognizes that public access to the shorelines of the Ottawa River is an important contributor to the quality of life for Constance Bay residents and wants to ensure that the 39 access points are maintained.


Property owners in some areas of Constance Bay have sought legal opinion through the courts, and through formal surveys to determine their riparian (waterfront) rights.


There was a Court decision last year in relation to several of the plan areas. The City was not a party to this court matter which is consistent with the view that ultimately the resolution of this legal question rests with the courts, and not the City.


In all areas that were challenged before the Court, the Court held that the private ownership extended to the water’s edge.


2. How do I get the road allowance beside my home cleaned up of overgrowth, fallen trees, or garbage?

Most of these access points are designated unopened and unmaintained road allowances.  Years ago, the community of Constance Bay partnered with the City of Ottawa to clean up and clearly identify the 39 access points with blue sign blades.  If there is an appetite from the community to coordinate another event, we would be happy to explore another partnership clean up.


3. There are many dogs off leash running along the beach. What can be done about this?

You can reach out and report through 3-1-1 for Bylaw Services, or submit an online report using the following link:   Report a problem with dogs | City of Ottawa

 

4. Why is the City installing armour stone at the Point beach and parking areas?

In early June of this year, the City will be installing armour stone. This is being done in an effort to help delineate the City-owned access point, and to facilitate safer parking and pedestrian access.


5. Are homeowners allowed to install fencing along the beach? Who oversees this?

While it is sad to see these changes happening, property owners wishing to delineate the boundaries of their property are permitted to do so, providing they refer to their survey and in consultation with the City of Ottawa’s fence bylaw found here: Fence (By-law No. 2003-462) | City of Ottawa . For fences that extend to the shoreline, property owners should consult the MVCA and/or MNRF.


6.  There is a new fence built by a property owner on Lane street. It runs along the beach going into the water. Is this allowed?

In the case of the recent fence installation at the Lane Street property, our office has confirmed that it meets the City’s bylaw requirements for the property boundaries. MVCA has confirmed compliance to their regulations as well. We are waiting on MNRF for their position of the portion of the fence when it is in the water and we will update this document when we have their answer. Of note: The property owner on Lane St has also been advised to remove the cedar fence that sits inside the City’s right-of-way, that the property owner had designated as a private beach area.


City staff have confirmed that there is a recent legal survey on file, and that the fence along the beach conforms to rules and requirements permitted to a private property.

We reached out to MVCA who confirmed that they had received several queries about this fence and staff visited the site and spoke with the owner.


As constructed, the fence in question does not impact the movement of water and does not require a permit from MVCA.  Fencing that requires a solid foundation and that does not allow for the passage of water (e.g. raised concrete forms or retaining wall) may be considered construction and fill under the Conservation Authorities Act, and MVCA would become involved.


Most land under water is crown owned.  In theory, as water advances and recedes, ownership could be considered to change hands, which is why the Crown (MNRF) may take an interest if there are periods when the fence would be submerged and within the province’s jurisdiction. 


We have followed up with MNRF and will update when we receive a response.

 

7.  Who do I contact if someone is trespassing on my property?

Anyone who is concerned about their legal rights regarding trespass should consider seeking independent legal advice regarding the private tort of trespass along with the application, if any, of the Trespass to Property Act (TPA). The City does not enforce the TPA. It is a matter for private property owners/occupiers and police. 


In the event of a crime in progress or immediate threat to personal safety, please call 9-1-1

 

8. In busy summer months, cars park all over the place, often illegally. What is being done to ensure safety? 

Illegal parking issues fall under City of Ottawa bylaw. Concerns regarding bylaw infractions can be sent to the City via 3-1-1 and will be investigated accordingly. Additionally, City bylaw services will have additional resources deployed during busy summer weekends.


9.  GeoOttawa boundaries are different from other maps that show the village.  How did this happen?

The boundary of the property adjacent to the Point Beach is based on a recent legal survey. The new limits shown on GeoOttawa are shown extending to the water line as a result of the legal survey.

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