An Important factor when buying a cottage...........
S.R.A.(Shore Line Road Allowance) Do you own your waterfront?
One of the most important aspects that your lawyer will review with you as a part of any cottage purchase is whether or not there is a strip is land which is identified as a "Road Allowance" which abuts the cottage property.
Shore Line Road Allowances originate from the initial grants, or patents, from the Crown and were identified by surveys completed in the late 1800's. Land in Ontario was organized into a grid system with 100 acre "Lots" and "Concessions" within geographic townships. Crown surveyors were instructed to take note of the lakes and rivers and identify an area of land one chain in depth(or 66ft) adjacent to these water bodies, which were identified as "Shore Line Road Allowances" which were in most instances reserved to the Crown in the Crown Patents or Grants which transferred ownership of land into private hands. As a result, owners of properties did not own to the water's edge, but only to the inner limit of the Shore Line Road Allowance identified by Crown survey plans.
In 1913 all Original Road Allowances, including Shore Road Allowances, were transferred by statute to the various Municipalities which were then incorporated throughout the province of Ontario. Today, Municipalities throughout Ontario have the option of either retaining Shore Line Road Allowances, or selling them to adjacent property owners.
In the County of Haliburton, the four Municipalities (being the Township of Minden Hills, the Municipality of Dysart et al., the Township of Algonquin Highlands and the Municipality of Highlands East) all have policies in place which allow for an adjoining property owner to acquire the original Shore Road Allowance adjacent to their respective land.
All of the Municipalities have websites where the general procedure to acquire Shore Line Road Allowance are detailed for that Municipality; there are differences regarding acquisition costs between the various Municipalities, which a buyer should make note of. For example, the Township of Algonquin Highlands bases the purchase price for a shore road allowance upon the area of the land acquired, whereas the Township of Minden Hills has a base fee for the first 150 feet of Shore Line Road Allowance with a cost per foot thereafter.
Consequently, within the County of Haliburton when a lawyer is asked the question "Can a land owner acquire the Shore Line Road Allowance?" the answer at present is an unequivocal "Yes", provided that the procedure outlined by that Municipality is followed. In certain circumstances there may be important reasons for a land owner to acquire the Shore Line Road Allowance; for example, where a cottage or boat house or other structure was constructed prior to the Municipality passing its comprehensive zoning by-law (which sets out set-back requirements for the construction of structures from the high water mark of a lake or river), although the particular structure may be considered "legal, but non-conforming" by the Municipality, a land owner may not be able to obtain a building permit to refurbish or otherwise "fix up" the particular structure unless they became the owner of the land that is occupied by that structure.
However, in instances where there are no structures located upon the original Shore Line Road Allowance, the completion of the purchase of same does not give a land owner the right to construct any dwelling or structure upon that area given that, for the most part, the Municipalities within the County of Haliburton have a prohibition on constructing any dwelling within a certain distance of the high water mark of a lake or river (usually new construction must be set back at least a minimum of 20 meters from the high water mark of a lake or river), which coincides with the actual width or depth of a Shore Line Road Allowance.
If a land owner wishes to acquire the Shore Line Road Allowance adjacent to their land, the first step is often retaining an Ontario Land Surveyor to survey out the concerned Shore Line Road Allowance. The surveyor is able to address any issues pertaining to boundaries with neighbors and if there are any disputes between neighbors regarding the location of the extension of the lot line to a water body, the Municipality reserves the right to retain the Shore Line Road Allowance and not sell same.
If there are no issues regarding the location of boundaries, then a cottage owner can make application for closure of that portion of the original Shore Line Road Allowance adjacent to their land subject to payment of the administrative fees outlined by that Municipality, and payment of the purchase price for the land, and payment to reimburse the Municipality for its legal expenses to complete the sale. The length of time to acquire the Shore Line Road Allowance varies from Municipality to Municipality but generally would take a minimum of 8 to 10 months to complete.