The Bluewater Shoreline Residents’ Association is an umbrella organization representing the interests and concerns of 50+ cottage associations and subdivisions located along Bluewater’s “West Coast” – from the Dashwood Road in the south to the southern boundary of Bayfield in the north. This linear Bluewater settlement area west of Highway 21, with about 1500 properties, has a population of approximately 3500.
This year, our Association is 20 years old. Initially formed formally in 1992, it was then known as the Stanley Township Cottagers’ Association (SCTA). In 1999, in anticipation of amalgamation in Bluewater, the Association expanded its designated area to include cottage associations in Hay Township and became the Bluewater Shoreline Residents’ Association (BSRA).
Our Contribution to the Municipality of Bluewater
Bluewater’s shoreline community contributes significantly to the economic health of Bluewater and Huron County. Almost half (48.9% in 2011) of the residential taxes collected in Bluewater come from the Stanley West and Hay West wards. Further economic spin-offs come from the building and renovation projects taking place along the lake as more and more residents upgrade/winterize their cottages or build permanent homes. These lakeshore homeowners hire local tradespeople to complete their projects. Residents shop locally for food and various services such as road maintenance and landscaping. And our residents contribute to the cultural and creative activities in the municipality – many in volunteer capacities.
Our Vision for the Bluewater Shorelin
Bluewater’s lakeshore residents are drawn here by the natural beauty of the lake, the sandy beaches, the opportunity for recreational swimming and boating, the “world’s most beautiful sunsets,” and the surrounding tranquil rural landscape with its prosperous farming community. Preserving all this for current and future generations, while, at the same time, accepting progressive and positive change, is important.
Shoreline residents serve as stewards of this natural recreational gem in Bluewater and give careful consideration to matters affecting this natural environment. We envision being able to swim in the lake without concern about the E. coli contamination levels. We hope that the natural health of the gullies and ravines in Bluewater will improve, that erosion will be minimized and that invasive species will be controlled. We understand the importance of responsible management of septic systems. We wonder about and study the potential impact of industrial wind turbines and other renewable energy sources in the Bluewater community.
Shoreline residents recognize that their high property assessment leads to a heavy tax burden, both at the municipal level and the county level. Moving forward, we envision a local government that makes fiscally responsible decisions and apportions the municipal financial resources fairly within the Bluewater jurisdiction.
Historical Highlights and Accomplishments
- · residents – a practice that continues to this day In 1994, SCTA initiated the production and distribution of a newsletter to Bluewater shoreline
- · In 1998, SCTA’s efforts finally convinced Union Gas to extend its gas pipeline into shoreline subdivisions
- · First in 1998 (through the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations) and then in 2000 (through a local insurance broker), liability insurance for member Associations was arranged.
- · In 2001, BSRA began investigating road services in the shoreline subdivisions – particularly in light of the municipal taxes paid by homeowners in these subdivisions. With data collected by BSRA, these subdivision roads were categorized as: dedicated, assumed, unassumed, and private.
- · In 2002, frustrated with Council’s inaction on shoreline issues, BSRA petitioned Bluewater Council to create a shoreline ward and, with no response from Council, financed taking the issue to the Ontario Municipal Board. Just prior to the OMB hearing, Council passed a by-law creating two shoreline wards with one councillor each – Hay West and Stanley West. This finally brought a shoreline voice to the Council table. Council also instituted “voting by mail” for its municipal elections – another “voice” for the shoreline.
- · Also in 2002, through BSRA’s efforts, Bluewater Council established the Road Grant Program – to reimburse Associations for eligible expenses related to the maintenance of unassumed shoreline residence-access roads. For eligible Associations in 2012, this grant covers road expenses at a rate of $3040/km and includes payment of a $550 administration fee to the Association (instituted in 2010).
- · In 2003 BSRA began investigating E.coli levels in the lake and ravine at St. Joseph. In subsequent years, the testing program has expanded to include more Bluewater ravines and beaches and continues today as a cooperative effort involving Bluewater Council and the Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority.
- · In 2003 BSRA augmented its communication with shoreline residents by setting up its own website: www.bsra.ca
- · In 2005, at BSRA’s request, Bluewater set up a pre-authorized payment plan so that taxpayers could pay their taxes in 7 instalments. In 2010, this became a 10 instalment plan to ease the burden of property tax payments.
- · In 2009, BSRA began to research the impact of industrial wind turbines in Bluewater and encouraged Bluewater Council to draft a by-law with 1500 m setbacks. Council eventually settled on 1000 m setbacks but the provincial Green Energy Act negated Council’s control in this issue. Research on this issue continues into 2012.
- · Also in 2009 BSRA, in a major presentation to Bluewater Council, emphasized the heavy tax burden placed on shoreline properties by MPAC’s current value assessments. BSRA has tracked the distribution of taxes by ward since 2004 and the 2011 analysis showed that Stanley West and Hay West taxpayers contributed 42 cents of every tax dollar levied in Bluewater.
- · In 2010 BSRA began publishing its e-Bulletin, sent 6 times a year to shoreline residents – a third way in which BSRA communicates with its members.