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Our Restricted Covenant and Charter Revisited

by Susanne Palmer

In a discussion about lake aspirations, the 1996 Annual General Meeting agreed to embark on a process to articulate the principles that we share as cottagers on Minnicock Lake. Drafts were prepared and debated, and in August 1997, representatives of 100% of the then-property-owners signed the Minnicock Lake Charter.

Every owner on the lake received a colour copy of the Charter including a photo taken by one of our then-neighbours, renowned nature photographer, Bill Ivy.

Since we now have a number of new owners, and since almost a decade has passed since the Charter was born, it seems a good time to revisit the Charter's language and recommit to its promises.

One of the benefits of the Charter is to stimulate discussion around our values, and clarify our joint intent. For example, goal 6 re "motorized watercraft" was worded to reflect concerns about Seadoos. An unexpected application of the goal was to the operation of a seaplane on the lake. The over-riding consideration relating to speed is the cooperative, considerate operation of all watercraft.

All 13 goals are meant to be interpreted in light of the Vision Statement, to be tolerant and supportive in sustaining the serenity of the Lake. The Charter is a moral, not a legal, commitment. It has no sanctions; it is not a set of rules and regulations. It is, instead, a statement of principles to which we have all committed. Even if we occasionally miss the mark, at least we have established the mark, and can realign our sights for the next time. It is empowering to realize that the law is not the only standard against which we measure our conduct. In the context of the Charter, the voice with which we need contend is that of our own conscience.

RESTRICTIVE COVENANT

The original developers of our lake registered a 30 year restrictive covenant against the properties. Virtually everyone agrees that it was the registration of these environmental restrictions that preserved the natural heritage of the Lake and inspired those purchasing to be like-minded about the desire to keep Minnicock pristine and serene.

The original Covenant expired in 1998. It was the will of the 1997 Annual General Meeting that steps be taken to extend the Restrictive Covenant. What we thought would be a relatively simple request turned out to be a monumental task taking 3 years of effort to achieve.

Restrictive covenants "run with the land" and must be worded in the negative. After discussion with land registry experts and a review of the old covenants, a shorter RC emerged reflecting the fact that, in the intervening years, some of the covenants had been superseded by legislation. After debate and discussion, wording was approved by the MLRA in 1999 as follows:

  1. No residences on the Lands shall be stained so as to clash with the colours or hues of our natural environment, and no out-buildings or additional structures shall be conspicuous. No paint shall be applied to buildings other than for the trimming of doors and windows.
  2. The Lands’ indigenous ground-cover shall be encouraged and maintained and, with the exception of necessary planted grasses on septic fields, no seeded or sodded city-type lawns shall be planted on the Lands.
  3. In order to practise responsible forest management for the benefit of the Parties of the First Part, the Parties of the Second Part shall not interfere with natural shoreline growth, shall minimize culling, shall limb rather than cut wherever possible, shall actively plant where appropriate, and shall encourage regeneration.
  4. No water craft motors in excess of ten [or six *] horsepower shall be operated on Minnicock Lake or be brought onto the Lands. [* some properties have a 6 hp limit, some have a 10 hp limit]
  5. The owners of the Lands shall not breach relevant legislation in monitoring, maintaining and regularly pumping out all classes of septic systems.

Payments were received, signatures obtained and registration accomplished in May 2000. Unlike the original RC which was for a period of 30 years, current Ontario Planning Act provisions and legal advice resulted in a 20 year RC running from January 1, 2000.

Although every property on the Lake had the original RC registered against it (except, according to Tina, the Fisk's), not everyone agreed to register the new RC. We are therefore now only a "partly restricted" lake.

Excerpts from Rich Partridge's "President's Message" from the “Spring/Summer 1998" issue of this newsletter speaks to this:

There are 65 lots on Minnicock Lake, held by 48 owners. Of these, 41 owners (85%) representing 55 lots (85%) have indicated their willingness to register a Restrictive Covenant against their titles ...

... it is very important that the rest of us respect the right of our neighbours to take positions that differ from our own. ... The point of view was expressed that a RC was pointless if it was not going to be observed by all and enforced against those who breach it.

I have some sympathy with this perspective. There have been breaches. However, they have been the exceptions to rules observed by most.... For thirty years, the majority of property owners have done their best to maintain harmony with nature and to work with their neighbours to protect our treasured resource. There are precious few lakes with the tranquillity of Minnicock and this fact has contributed to its value, both materially and spiritually. Continuation of this tradition will result in further appreciation....

If the Covenant had not been registered against our properties three decades ago, one wonders if there would be anything unique about Minnicock Lake today. It served its purpose and was observed in the main. When the New Covenant is not observed, we should use moral suasion and public education -through the Association - to minimize these incidents. The very existence of a legal limitation such as the Covenant will cause most people to think twice about destroying natural habitat ....

NOTE: the percentage adopting the Restrictive Covenant dropped slightly from the 85% cited, prior to registration.

KEY DIFFERENCES between the CHARTER and the RESTRICTIVE COVENANT

A. In contrast to the Charter, the Restrictive Covenant is a legally-enforceable, registered commitment. The Charter is a voluntary agreement.

B. The RC is for a limited duration. The Charter can operate as long as ML residents are agreed on its terms.

Virtually everyone who has bought property on the lake in the last decade cite the commitments reflected in the principles of the CHARTER and the Restrictive Covenant as the reason they purchased here. It is the dream of some that we once again achieve 100% RC registration, thereby ensuring that all future purchasers are aware of both the legal and voluntary commitments we have made to one another and to the Lake.

As we watch over weed and water levels in the Lake, and as more lots are sold and developed, our Charter promises become all the more important. It is our hope that everyone visiting at Minnicock, whether friend or renter, will be made aware of these commitments and agree to be bound by the ethic that defines our Lake.

If you have any questions concerning either the Charter or the Restrictive Covenant, please feel free to call Susanne Palmer or Wayne Drewry at (705) 457-3302.