Should I purchase the Shoreline Road Allowance?

Let me explain ‘Shoreline Road Allowance’ (SRA)
Shoreline Road Allowance was created on most waterfront properties in Ontario after 1850 to allow access to the shore from navigable waterways for business and public passage in a time when travel was most common by canoe. Most of these ‘roads’ were never opened, however, this in no way limits the original conveyance nor obstructs the right of use by the public.

Many cottage owners know that there is an allowance in front of their property, however, no one else can purchase the land. As such, many decided that they do not want to go through the expense of closing the road.  The existence of this allowance may appear in the deed as follows: and accept that portion of land consisting of a sixty-six foot shoreline road allowance

Should you purchase the SRA when buying waterfront property?
It is possible to apply to buy this allowance but many people don’t proceed with this route. As a waterfront property owner you automatically have what are known as “riparian rights” to the shoreline on your property, meaning you can have a dock, for example and enjoy the use of it.  In Haliburton County, probably close to 80% of people do not own their shore road allowance, but if your improvements … cottage, outbuildings, etc … are sitting on it, it’s something you might want to consider.

There are other reasons to consider buying the SRA. Purchasing the allowance makes your lot larger, which may mean that you can build a bigger cottage on the property because many townships impose limits on the size of cottages based on a percentage of the total lot size; the coverage limit may be 20 or 30 per cent of the total lot. Adding the SRA to your lot may give you the square footage you need to add that extra bedroom.

If you do want to purchase your Shoreline Road Allowance, referred to as “closing your SRA,” your local municipality has the final say in closure and title issues of the property and road allowances. Also, the Ministry of Natural Resources has established guidelines affecting closure of some roads for the preservation of wildlife and fish habitat. To close your SRA, you are required to make applications and are responsible for the costs that are determined by the municipality.  The purchasing and closing costs will vary, in some areas it may be substantial.  The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) must agree to the disposal of shore road allowances, as must the township or town’s council, as well as adjoining neighbours in both directions. If you do or do not own the original shore road allowance it is recommended to contact the town or township office where the property is located to find out specific answers to your particular case.  There is no standard fee for this land as each town(ship) has the right to set their own price – and they normally charge a price per square foot.  The applicant is responsible for all costs associated with the purchase including surveys, application fees, town legal fees, your legal fees etc.

A word of warning:
If you try to have this closed, an older cottage may fall under ‘Non-Conforming Status’. You may now have to deal with setback allowances, environmental legislation etc…If the lot is pie shaped, you might end up with a smaller frontage. There are numerous policies and procedures involved and you need to talk to the right people before you pursue this.

If I own the shore road allowance can I do whatever I want with it?
Lake quality is important to the MNR as well as the other lake owners on your lake.  Fishing habitat is important to the MNR as it is with the department of Fisheries and Oceans, so all shoreline work has to be with their approval as well as the town(ship). Townships will also have restrictions on how close to the lake you can build, they may have a permit requirement for docks and boathouses, so you must check with them for guidelines as well as the MNR, and in some cases, the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries.

So now what?
At the end of the day, your shoreline is yours to use …. within regulation.  If you do want to build on the area of your SRA, you will need to purchase it.  Before you go ahead and buy the allowance however, check with the appropriate regulatory bodies because the MNR has strict guidelines on what can be done with a shoreline.