A property owner in Long Point has chided Norfolk County for being “a terrible neighbour.”
Mary Weber owns cottages on Hastings Drive. At a time of record high water levels in Lake Erie, Weber says it is unacceptable that the county is doing nothing to protect its shoreline on Hastings from wave erosion.
At its July 2 meeting of Norfolk council, Weber said private property owners on Hastings have buffered the shoreline and – as a result – are protecting their land from erosion.
More importantly, Weber says their vigilance is keeping Hastings Drive passable for vehicular traffic.
But the same can’t be said for Hastings Drive adjacent to county land. Norfolk has not maintained its breakwalls in these areas, Weber said, and as a result the road is at risk of eroding away.
“Do we not deserve at least the same consideration as you’ve given species-at-risk – frogs, toads, snakes and fish?” Weber asked council.
“This work can be done to the satisfaction of all species – including people.”
At a minimum, Weber wants Norfolk to reset the stone and concrete barriers on its property to protect the beach and the road next to it.
The 49 vacant lots Norfolk County owns on Hastings represent nearly a third of the waterfront in this part of Long Point. Norfolk has a permit from the Long Point Region Conservation Authority to protect its shoreline but county staff has not acted on it.
At the July 9 meeting of Norfolk council, staff said shoreline protection is on hold because the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests wants an engineering report on what the county has in mind.
Chris Baird, Norfolk’s general manager of public works, says the ministry wants details because the county’s stake in the Hastings neighbourhood is so large. Baird said the county has to respect the fact that action on Hastings could have consequences for shoreline erosion elsewhere.
“The last thing we want to do is send the problem downstream and create problems in other parts of Long Point,” Baird said. “This is an active process and we need a plan.”
Mayor Kristal Chopp says it is time for Norfolk to stop neglecting its obligations on Hastings, especially with respect to the integrity of the road allowance. The road is unpaved and subject to erosion but Chopp says Hastings is a legal thoroughfare like any other.
“Not only is Hastings Drive a public road in a registered subdivision, for a dead-end unmaintained road it sees an incredibly high volume of traffic,” the mayor said.
“Private property owners have done their part, but it is the county-owned lots that have been neglected that are the problem.”
Chopp added Norfolk needs to attend to shoreline protection as soon as possible. The longer the situation is neglected, she said, the more expensive it will be to restore Hastings as a viable road.
Windham Coun. Chris Van Paassen feels the deterioration of any county asset is unfortunate. But Van Paassen wants to know how Hastings Drive is any different than any of the other infrastructure repairs on Norfolk’s to-do list.
“I can show you bridges in (Port Dover) Ward 6 that have been closed for 10 years,” he told council. “The money is in the budget to fix them yet nothing has been done.
“Just because we have a vocal group down there does that move it to the front of the line?”
Hastings Drive property owner Randy Mawhiney, of St. Williams, also spoke to council about conditions in Long Point at the July 2 meeting. The erosion of Hastings coupled with periodic flooding throughout the resort community, Mawhiney said, represent “a disaster waiting to happen.
“Are we only protecting the turtles and frogs and to hell with the humans?” Mawhiney asked. “Why pay taxes? People are starting to wonder. There doesn’t seem to be much common sense in this roads department anymore. We need action down there.”
Support for this was expressed by Port Rowan Coun. Tom Masschaele, Waterford Coun. Kim Huffman and Simcoe Coun. Ian Rabbitts.
“This is a county asset we are allowing to deteriorate under water,” Rabbitts said.
CAO Harry Schlange said staff will have a better idea of the way forward sometime this September.