Lake Country council has asked for a second look at a bylaw that limits the length of docks in the district after going against a staff recommendation and denying two separate requests from Lake Country residents to add 10 metres to their docks on Okanagan Lake.
The two variance requests came back-to-back at last Tuesday’s Lake Country council meeting. Both requests were denied by council, despite the staff recommendation to approve the variance and against the urging of an independent biologist who stated that the decisions would have negative effects on Okanagan Lake.
Lake Country’s current bylaw limits docks to 40 metres. The requests to add 10 metres were made so that there would be enough water to accommodate a boat and keep it from impacting negatively on fish habitat with what’s called prop scour, when a boat motor stirs up the lake bottom.
“It’s crazy that they are saying you have to stick to 40 metres,” said Christina White, of Triton Environmental Consultants, a biologist who compiled a report for both variances as is required under provincial and federal regulations.
“They are going against the science. It just seems crazy to me that they aren’t willing to listen. They need to revisit their maximum length. It’s not about the length of the dock, it’s about the science.”
In one variance, councillors were concerned that the dock extension would have a negative impact as it would be 10 metres longer than neighbouring docks.
The second proposal didn’t have any issues with neighbouring docks. Still, council decided to stick to its guns and keep the dock limit to 40 metres.
The decision means both residents will have issues getting their boats to the docks without disrupting the bottom of Okanagan Lake—potential habitat for shore spawning kokanee.
Docks are actually governed and approved by the provincial and federal governments although a municipality’s zoning bylaws must also be adhered to. White says in her experience, variances are generally granted by a municipality when it’s shown that a dock extension is needed to have the least impact on the environment.
Doug Pusey, of Legacy Homeworks, presented to council on behalf of the second applicant.
“We don’t have the neighbour issues, we’re not affecting anyone else, none of the other government agencies have given any pause for thought,” he said. “What we were hoping for is to get the dock out far enough so that we don’t have to worry about prop scour.”
Despite his pleas, council denied the request.
“The (provincial government) tells us we have to build a longer dock but the district says they don’t want it,” Pusey said after the meeting.
“I find they are putting themselves in a precarious position. They say 40 metres but that doesn’t meet the best management practices. The lake is going to be impacted.”
After turning down the requests, council asked district staff to provide a report on the length of docks allowed in Lake Country.
“I’d like to request staff bring back a report on the changes that have been made to the best management practices (on Okanagan Lake) and comment on our zoning bylaw and how this is related to our decision,” said Coun. Penny Gambell.
“I’m whole-heartedly in support of a scientific approach, but maybe what that means is not all parcels of land can have a dock,” added Coun. James McEwan.
Meanwhile, White said she is looking into where the two applicants go from here—they can either appeal or get two-thirds of council support to bring the issue back to the council chamber.