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President’s Message by Gary McIlravey

1999 Fall/Winter Newsletter

I trust that you, your family and friends all enjoyed another summer of fun, frolic and relaxation at Minnicock, this year. I know we did. The weather was great and the water quality as good as I have seen it over my dozen years on the Lake.

For those of you who attended the 1999 Annual General Meeting, you should be aware that the term of our past President, Rich Partridge ended after three years of dutiful and diligent service. Thanks to Rich for all of his thoughtfulness, fairness and hard work over this time. As I was named Vice President of the Association at the 1998 AGM, I now have the task of filling Rich’s large shoes. Especially difficult since my feet are only 7 1/2. However, I’ll do my best, as per the Cub motto.

For those of you who do not know me and are wondering how I wound up being President, here is a brief history. As noted above, I have been a co-owner of a property on Minnicock since October, 1987. A dozen years of fun in the sun, but a drop in the rain barrel compared to the more storied histories of some of our neighbours - virtual pioneers. I attended my first AGM that year.

image02The following year, it was announced that the Association was in need of someone to be Secretary, as well as someone to take over the production of the newsletter, as Artie Freer had decided to take a break from this task. Volunteers were requested, but no one spoke up. I kept thinking… "Someone has to do it"… so eventually I volunteered for both positions, mainly because I had access to a computer and a copier, and am regularly writing reports as part of my work.

Thus began my involvement in the MLRA, by default, much more than by design. I produced the Newsletter for a few years, until Arlie thankfully returned to the fold. My tenure as Secretary was much longer - a decade of furiously recording the Minutes of all of the AGM’s between 1988 and 1998.

Over all these years, as I would cram to get the minutes done for the Newsletter (always weeks after Arlie’s deadlines, despite my best intentions) my spouse Carolyn would ask me “why do you do this job?” I would reply “someone’s got to do it”, so I kept doing it. The problem is, I forgot the part of the contract that said if you hang around long enough, someone may eventually ask you to be President.

Just as I had enough of scrawling notes at AGM’s, it was made aware to me that it was the “East Road’s” turn to offer up a nominee for the next President. This is because Rich Partridge is from the West Road and it is our normal practice to “flip flop” Presidents from each side of our Lake, from term to term.

Then I was asked whether I would be willing to be nominated for President.

Hmm, I thought. My goal was not to take any more notes. This also included some desire to pay less attention to everything and everyone but the sound of the bullfrogs, the wind on the water, the birds in the air and the stars in the sky. However, after making a quick tally of those on the East Road who had already served as President since my arrival, the results of the process of elimination became more clear. Once again I said, “Someone’s got to do it".

image04So here I am, honoured to assist the MLRA and its members for two more years, if again somewhat by default, more than by design. Once this term is done, I am history. You will then most likely find me floating aimlessly in the middle of the Lake (or somewhere else, since floating around is so relaxing), contemplating where to throw out my memoirs.

Until then, I’ll do my best to meet our Lake’s best interests, to provide a ready sounding board for your comments and concerns and where necessary, to act as a mediator in discussing these issues.

The implementation of the Covenant is the main issue I would like to have resolved as quickly as possible. I have gone on record in past AGM gatherings, as being a strong supporter of both the Charter and the re-institution of the Covenant. I firmly believe that the reason Minnicock Lake has been able to maintain its quiet, relatively natural, “small motor” setting, is because the there was a Covenant in place for so many years.

image03When we purchased our cottage, the original Covenant was noted by our real estate agent and later, our lawyer. They wanted to be sure we understood the situation with small motors. Our real estate agent mentioned that since many people looking for cottages are also looking at the boating potential, she had only rarely been to Minnicock. This and other agents’ awareness of the original Covenant meant that there was often little point in showing Minnicock cottages to those looking for boating potential.

While the overall spirit of cooperation on the Lake with respect to its “quiet enjoyment” was obviously very important to establishing its special environment, especially with respect to motorized water craft, it seems hard not to view the original Restrictive Covenant as having been a strong means of protecting that environment. Technically, it was not legal for an owner or guest to operate a larger boat, on Minnicock, because of the Covenant registered on all lots.

As of today, we have an expired statute - the original Covenant. There is no legal means of stopping anyone from launching a Jet-Ski tomorrow. Somehow I doubt that anyone currently on the Lake would do so, now or in the future. Still, the Covenant which provided some level of legal protection from this - a situation relatively unique amongst developed lakes - no longer exists. Recognizing this expiry of the original Covenant, the process began to create the Charter, re-write the Covenant and re-institute it across the Lake. For myself and the co-owners of our property, there was really no decision to make as to whether or not to re-institute the Covenant against title on our lot. There was only one position in our minds: to support, if necessary, refine and eventually re-apply the Covenant. It was, in our mind, what defined Minnicock and why we bought here, after looking at a number of other lakes in the area. Naively, I also believed that everyone else on the Lake was equally supportive of reimplementing the Covenant.

image05The results of the Covenant “vote” were presented at the 1999 AGM. The results showed that there is between 78-80% support for renewing the Covenant. This represents the vast majority of owners on the Lake and a strongly positive result. In the view of the Executive and myself, sufficient support to move ahead with its renewal, on those lots who desire it.

While 100% support would be ideal, it is still important for those of us who do support the Covenant, to move ahead with its renewal. Amongst other things, the main role of the Covenant from my perspective, is to stop Jet skis and water ski boats from making Minnicock their home. At least if the majority who are in favour of the Covenant do renew it, then we will be certain that 80% of the lots on our Lake will never have these vessels launched from their docks.

The other 20% we’ll have to leave to the forces of good will and cooperation, I sup-pose. This is fine while the current owners hold their properties. We all know their intentions are not to start water skiing. However, I do worry about the longer term, especially if these properties turn over. If you had a Jet ski, wouldn’t you want to find a Lake where 80% of the lots couldn’t have one by way of title, but that the cottage you are looking at has no covenant, thereby allowing you a less congested lake for roaring around on? This is what I worry about. Its not about now, its about the future.

image06I’m not the only one. I had a few calls from a couple who were considering buying and building on Minnicock, as well as their real estate agent. They had understood we had a Covenant against larger motor boats, but when they checked around, they found that it had expired, so they called me. They asked about the situation and whether the Covenant would be renewed. I explained to them that 80% were in favour and they were moving ahead. They asked about the other 20% and what would happen later if someone sold one of those cottages. I said I didn’t know. They said they would probably look elsewhere.

Those who voted against the renewal of the Covenant certainly have a right to their opinion, decision and actions. However, having respect for these rights, does nothing to ease my disappointment that the level of support for the Covenant was not higher and ideally, unanimous. It also does not assist me in comprehending the logic of such as decision, vis a vis the longer term future and health of Minnicock Lake. Nor do most of the reasons I have heard for not supporting the Covenant.

While I do not intend to document all reasons for non-support I have heard in this space, one I have heard on more than one occasion, is that it is not the Covenant which protects the Lake environment, it is the residents themselves, their common goals and overall level of cooperation in attempting to meet these goals. As a result, the importance of the Covenant is over stated and at the end of the day, is not important or necessary to maintain the Lake’s environment, over the longer term.

I agree that the spirit of cooperation is a strong and important social force. However, we as a society seem to better recognize written rules over unwritten rules, especially over the longer term. Written rules are easier to remember and to prove exist, than unwritten rules, or Gentleman’s Agreements. That’s why lawyers make us sign things after we say we agree to do something. So there is written proof of our agreement and intentions, to underpin and guarantee our good words will be translated into appropriate actions.

Similarly, the original Covenant was a written rule, applicable to all lots on the Lake, not an unwritten rule or Gentlemen’s Agreement. After close to 30 years of development, the Lake has managed to stay large boat and PWC free. In my view, to discount the importance of the “written rule” of the Covenant, while placing more importance on “spirit of cooperation” in creating and maintaining this situation, may be a folly long term vision, despite having intuitive appeal.

Spirit of cooperation starts with knowing your neighbour to some degree and tends to be enhanced with time, as people’s familiarity and comfort level increases. On our Lake, many of the cottages are still inhabited by the original families who built them some 30 years ago. Many people have known one another “since the beginning”, or close to it. Some came to the Lake Minnicock because their friends or co-workers were here, sharing bonds which pre-date their residence at Minnicock.

However, the demographics are changing. Some of the Lake founders and original cottagers have moved on or passed away in the dozen years I have been here. Time marches on. Others will follow. Not all of the families will retain ownership of their cottages. New people will come in their place. Even where families retain properties, the value systems of future generations may not be the same. The time may come where most cottagers are unfamiliar with each other, or certainly less so than in the “golden days” of the 1970's and 1980’s, or even today.

image07My point here is that “spirit of cooperation” seems likely to be a weaker glue holding the Lake environment together in the future, than it has been in the past and is today. Put simply, times change and so do people. Having statutes in place, stops people from changing the rules, as the people change.

Another reason I have heard more than once is apparently a perception that “other people” on the Lake contravene the principles of the Charter or Covenant, either regularly or irregularly, so there is therefore little sense in having or supporting such a Covenant.

From my chair, this makes little sense. Some people break or bend laws or rules, but at least there are laws and rules in place to guide actions. Does this mean we shouldn’t have laws and rules, in a society where most abide, while some do not? I would hate to think of the situation if there were none, despite the natural good will, law abiding nature and spirit of cooperation most people inherently possess.

Personally, I don’t always agree with the some of the things “other people” do on the Lake, related to its longer term health, my personal enjoyment of it and my perception of what the Lake should be about. Regardless, I also understand that some people have valid reasons for what they choose to do, or may require some conveniences that I do not. However, I still support renewing the Covenant, even if I believe that few of us abide by its rule, 100% of the time.

I feel that the Charter and especially, the Covenant, are statements intended to support the overall, longer term health of the Lake. To me, most of the reasons for not supporting the renewal of the Covenant (including others not discussed above), reflect a protection of self-interests on the part of a minority of people, rather than the collective interest of the vast majority. In that, I am disappointed.

To me, renewing the Covenant is the most important issue our Association has had to deal with in its history. It is a primary reason why Minnicock is unique. If you’ve supported it, I thank you. If not, my comments above were not intended to offend or enrage you. If I have done so, I apologize. However, I do not apologize for my views. They are sincere, non-personal and simply intended to take one last shot at convincing non-supporters to PLEASE, change their minds. Put the Lake’s interests ahead of your own. Please renew the Covenant on your lot.

Aside from the Covenant, another issue I would like to address here, is reported concern over the posting of the laminated copies of the Charter at the East and West Road entrances. The primary concern expressed to me from more than one cottager, was that the posted signs listed the signatures of all cottagers. These people felt that this could at some point lead to a security risk and requested whether the signs could be removed.

I personally thought the idea of posting the Charter was great when it came up at this year’s AGM - so did everyone else, since the membership approved the decision to install the signs. Thanks are in order for those who put forth the effort to laminate and install them. However, I certainly do not want any individual on our Lake to feel less safe, because of our group decision. So I supported the request to remove the signs at least until next year, when the issue can be discussed amongst the Membership.

To close out, I would like to say that my primary goal as President is to act as a sounding board for your concerns. Please do not hesitate to call me with your concerns, comments, queries or items to be discussed at the 2000 AGM. Jim Hubbard has kindly volunteered to host the meeting. However, my real wish is that the phone rarely rings. That would mean no concerns, no issues, no politics - just peace, quiet and people having fun, not wearing frowns. That’s my main goal as President. Don’t worry. Be Happy. My campaign motto.

Have a safe winter and a very happy holiday season. I’ll see you in the next century, at the 2000 AGM, if not sooner.