Boathouses are a great addition to your property but they can be technically challenging from a land surveying, land-use planning and engineering perspective. Most boat houses encroach on water lots of crown land being the beds of major water bodies. Few properties will own the bed of a water body but the ideal place to build a boat house is to ensure access to the water without the need for winches or lifts.
Is a building permit required?
The technical term for a boat house is a marine facility. Building permits are administered by a Building Department as authorized by the Building Code Act and required within the jurisdiction of a municipality. However, most boat houes lay on Crown Land or the bed of a major body of water. In most cases Building Departments have no jurisdiction over crown land. For the case of the City of Brockville the bed of the St. Lawrence River is considered Crown Land and not subject to municipal by-laws. In the 2016 Ontario Superior Court decision (Glaspell v. Ontario), The Ontario Superior Court found that the municipalities have the authority to enact by-laws that regulate the use of land covered by water and enforce those by-laws as well as the Ontario Building Code despite ownership of the land by the Crown. Based on this decision the City of Brockville will review their by-laws and enforce Ontario Building Code standards and permitting on to marine facilities including boat houses.
In some cases you will need an Minsitry of Natural Resources (MNR) work permit to work around water that is federally regulated such as Crown Land. Under the Public Lands Act you are authorized to build up to 15 square meters of cribbing without a work permit. In order to apply for a work permit you will need a site plan and survey outlining the project. An MNR work permit can take 6 to 12 weeks to receive.
For the Ontario Public Lands Act:
Where work permit required
21. For greater certainty, the authorization to occupy public lands under section 21.1 of the Act for the purpose of erecting or placing a building, structure or thing on the public lands does not exempt the person so authorized from the obligation of obtaining a work permit under the Act if the erecting or placing of the building, structure or thing is an activity for which a work permit is required under Ontario Regulation 239/13 (Activities on Public Lands and Shore Lands – Work Permits and Exemptions) made under the Act.
Further O.Reg 239/19 states:
1) No person shall carry out any of the following activities except under the authority of and in accordance with the terms and conditions of a work permit that authorizes the activity:
1. Construct or place a building on public land.
2. Construct a trail, water crossing or road on public land.
3. Dredge shore lands.
4. Fill shore lands.
5. Remove invasive aquatic vegetation or native aquatic vegetation by mechanical means or by hand from shore lands.
6. Construct or place a structure or a combination of structures that is in physical contact with more than 15 square metres of shore lands. O. Reg. 239/13, s. 2 (1); O. Reg. 160/17, s. 2 (1).
Ontario Public Lands Act
The Ontario Public Lands Act places the following restrictions on boat houses:
10. A person is authorized to occupy public lands under section 21.1 of the Act for the purpose of erecting, placing or using a single-storey boathouse near or partially on waterfront property only if the following conditions are met:
1. The person owns or occupies the waterfront property.
2. The boathouse is secured or affixed to, or is attached to a dock that is secured or affixed to,
i. the waterfront property, or
ii. the unopened road allowance or the strip of public lands that separates the waterfront property from the lake, river, stream or pond, at a location that, if the sidelines of the waterfront property were extended in a straight line to the water’s edge, lies between those extended sidelines.
3. In the case of a boathouse that is secured or affixed to, or is attached to a dock that is secured or affixed to an unopened road allowance over which the public has a right of passage, the boathouse or dock must be secured or affixed to the unopened road allowance in a manner that does not obstruct or interfere with the right of passage.
4. The boathouse is a single-storey building and the interior of the boathouse is designed and used solely for the purpose of storing and docking boats and related equipment.
5. The person erects, places and uses the boathouse on public lands solely for private, non-commercial purposes.
If you are considering building a new boat house contact our team for assistance, we can provide a complete suite of services including land surveying, land-use planning, engineering and design.
If you are planning on doing a multi-storey boathouse with livable space above then you may need to lease or purchase the crown land that the proposed structure will sit on. This will require a crown-lands survey and an agreement with the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Before you start your boathouse project, be sure to contact our team to guide you through the process. Each project will be slightly different with different project requirements and it’s important you work with a consulting office that can complete land surveyings, land-use planning, design and engineering for your project.