| Jul 10, 2008

Feature Article - July 10, 2008

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Feature Article - July 10, 2008 Sharbot Lake Property Owners’ Association – committed to information and cooperationBy Jeff Green

The Sharbot Lake Propery Owners’ Association is unlike some other cottage or lake associations in that it does not limit its membership to waterfront property owners.

As current association president Bill Wilson says, “Anyone who is affected by the lake, whether they live on the lake or away from the lake, but are affected by what happens on the lake, is welcome to join.”

And over the past five years, under the leadership of Wilson and past president Rem Westland, the membership in the association has increased from just over 100 to nearly 250 households.

“The association was founded in the mid 1970s” Rem Westland said in an interview with the two men at the Maples Restaurant earlier this week. “It was founded over a political issue; someone wanted to put a trailer park on the lake and the association came about to oppose it”.

Then it was the Gypsy moth issue in the early 80s. After that the focus shifted from the political to the social as an annual fishing derby became the major event in the association’s calendar for many years.

When Rem Westand got involved five years ago, the fishing derby had run its course and the matter of tax increases for waterfront properties in the light of property reassessment was a major concern of his.

“I realised early on that in order to address council about the taxation situation I had to be better informed. So we formed a taxation committee to look at the situation in detail,” Westland recalls.

Gradually the philosophy of the association began to change. Instead of advocacy on behalf of the executive and some of the membership on issues that came up, the association began to concern itself more with research into issues and, with Bill Wilson coming on and developing the SLPOA website, communication and information have become the credo of the organisation.

During the most recent municipal election, the association posed several questions of each mayoral candidate and posted the responses on their website.

“We didn’t grade the responses; we didn’t favour a candidate. We simply provided information for our members,” said Bill Wilson.

This past winter the proposed condominium development on the lake sparked quite a bit of controversy among association members and the community at large. Once again the executive avoided taking sides.

In a newsletter published in June, Bill Wilson addressed this non-stance: “Over the past winter we have received some criticism regarding our stand – to be more precise, our lack of a stand - on the Primrose Development condominium proposal. Like our membership, opinions within the executive varied from strongly in favour, strongly opposed, and neutral. But we all agreed on one thing – remain neutral and unbiased as an association while becoming informed and then sharing the facts with our members. A public meeting was held in February, which a member of the executive attended. As it turned out Primrose Developments abandoned its project. We believe the SLPOA can have more influence by supporting the organisations that define and ultimately enforce the regulations that govern all of us, like the MVC [Mississippi Valley Conservation].”

In recent years environmental concerns have been dominant for lake associations, and the SLPOA is no exception.

Its environmental committee has produced a framework lake plan; the association has lobbied Central Frontenac Township to set up a hazardous waste day, which will take place on July 26 (see ad on page 15), and continues to encourage the township to establish a septic re-inspection project, which is in place in all neighbouring townships.

Bill Wilson and Rem Westland consider that the SLPOA’s decision to avoid getting into political battles has led to a positive relationship between on and off waterfront property owners in Sharbot Lake Village and the surrounding countryside.

But for Rem Westland it is clear that waterfront property owners represent the major industry in the region. “Water is to Sharbot Lake what iron ore is to Shefferville - the one industry that supports all others. I think that should be recognised when people talk about economic development.”

For him the Sharbot Lake Property Owners’ Association is like a sleeping giant.

“When an important issue comes up, and I don’t know when that will happen, an issue that affects all of our membership and our collective interest, be it an issue around water quality or something else, we will take a stand, and we will do so with some authority,” he said.

The Sharbot Lake Property Owners’ Association Annual General Meeting takes place on July 19 at the Oso Hall at 10:00 AM.

The annual Fish fry takes place on July 26 at 5 pm at the Oso Hall as well.

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