Property rights matter in our society, and the need to reconcile competing rights is as old as civilization itself. A particular case-in-point is the current attempt to re-zone Huntsville’s Jessop Lake to allow more development, but the underlying issues are common to the important bigger picture in Muskoka.
Two related challenges are involved.
The rst is the need to balance the rights of existing owners whose properties suffer (and in monetary terms lose value) if further load is put on a lake, versus the rights of a single owner whose property value is enhanced if he can develop more plots.
The second and related issue is the battle between development (which is needed by society, and can add value), and conservation – which also clearly adds value specically to Muskoka. I happen to live locally, but our economy depends on cottagers and tourists who come to Muskoka specically because it is different — and green. Here, too, the property rights of the many may conict with those of the few.
A partial solution to both challenges can be agreed-upon local lake plans and the town’s own zoning laws, both of which lay out agreed principles for developing and sustaining a lake. The existence of such plans and zoning can reduce ghting each dispute from rst principles. Some lake plans exist (as does for Jessop Lake), but where there are strong developer ties, they may be resisted. Zoning laws and lake plans can provide a dependable framework for resolving competing rights, by telling everyone what kind of development can be expected in his or her neighbourhood.
It is time for Huntsville councillors to demonstrate political leadership by debating, endorsing and then supporting local lake plans.