The Rondeau Cottage Community:

Myths vs. Facts

Correcting Misinformation About Ontario's Original Cottage Community

Myth: Rondeau Park won't be "Public" anymore.

Fact: More than 99.4% of Rondeau will be left unaffected by this agreement. The beach, dunes, forest, and marsh will remain public forever. Most cottage lots will continue to be surrounded on all sides by public parkland. The PP&CRA Regulations allow provincial parks to acquire and sell small parcels of land easily. This sale is nothing unusual or special, and it will ultimately result in more Ontario Parks -protected land.

Myth: The entire park will be privatized for cottagers.

Fact: This appears to be a widespread misunderstanding. The over-arching goal of this agreement is that nothing in Rondeau will change... the cottage owners will simply enjoy "normal" security of tenure just like everyone else in Ontario. Cottages have been in Rondeau for over a century and the park ecology has thrived, and will continue to thrive long after this agreement has been signed. Barely one-half of one-percent is affected. And more than 99.4% of the park will remain public forever.

Myth: Rondeau Park is NOT within the Municipality of Chatham-Kent, nor within Chatham-Kent's jurisdiction.

Fact: This statement is factually incorrect and misleading because the park is legally considered part of Harwich Township which is entirely within Chatham-Kent. Building permits and construction inspections of the cottages in question have long been Chatham-Kent's sole responsibility. All cottage lots already have individually-assigned municipal Roll Numbers which place them within the Municipality of Chatham-Kent.

Myth: Cottagers do not pay Property Tax.

Fact: Yes we do indeed pay property tax, although we pay it to the province who then hands it over to the municipality for us. Technically it's called our PILT (Payment In-Lieu of Taxes) and it's administered under the terms of the Municipal Tax Assistance Act. Our cottages have all been assessed by MPAC just like every other home in Ontario and we pay the same Harwich Township Residential mill rate that homes outside the park do. The only difference is we pay a Lease fee, a Service Fee, and Gate Permit park entry fees on top of our taxes.

Myth: Cottagers are buying land for "pennies on the dollar".

Fact: We have already agreed to pay among the highest price per acre for land in Southern Ontario. While each individual lot is tiny -- apx 1/6 of an acre -- the price for almost all lots exceeds $750,000/acre and some approach $900,000/acre. We already own our cottages and don't have to buy them again... but we're offering near-record money for the tiny lots they're sitting on. These prices were independently established by Infrastructure Ontario as being fair to the province. We hope this money will be kept within the Ontario Parks system for needed infrastructure improvements and ecological research.

Myth: Rondeau will finally be "right" with all cottages gone.

Fact: Rondeau Provincial Park was created by an Order in Council in 1894 specifically to house a cottage community (max 1% of area) in addition to being a public park (99% of area). It's the only park chartered like this. Under long-held multiple use policy provincial parks aren't intended to be "cookie-cutter" duplicates of each other across Ontario. Rondeau is unique because of its cottages. It's already "right" the way it is today.

Ontario's "Everybody Wins" Proposal...

Background:  On August 22, 2019 Minister of the Environment, Conservation & Parks Jeff Yurek visited Rondeau. He went for a short sail on Rondeau Bay, toured the park, and ultimately met-up with Chatham-Kent Mayor Darrin Canniff and several members of the Rondeau Cottagers Association.

During their meeting Minister Yurek proposed transferring the 278 existing cottage lots to the municipality. In exchange for the 46 acres of long-developed cottage lots, the municipality offered to give Ontario Parks approximately 65 acres of land adjacent to Clear Creek Forest Provincial Park near Clearville. This would result in a net addition of approximately 20 acres of land to the Ontario Parks system -- all of it ANSI -designated old-growth forest. The price of the cottage lots would be determined later by the province. For simplicity this would be treated as a single transaction from one government to another; the expectation being the municipality would then sell the cottage lots to their leaseholders. There are many precedents for this arrangement.

The provincial Ministry of Infrastructure subsequently assessed the cottage lots that would be sold and determined fair market value to be approximately $30M. Ontario set the price.

For the province, Minister Yurek's proposal results in more land protected by Ontario Parks as well as a significant cash winfall.

For the municipality, the proposal results in a stabilized tax base and a guarantee that a long-threatened Chatham-Kent village will be protected from demolition forever.

For the leaseholders, the proposal eliminates the complexity of a shared ownership situation and finally gets rid of the problems associated with a lease originally written in 1933.

For the environment, the proposal puts strict limits on cottage renovations and ensures no new cottage lots will be developed beyond the 278 already there. It would ensure our unique "village in the park" charm never changes. And it would guarantee the  ecologically-sensitive Lake Erie beach and dunes remain public forever.

By the numbers, only 46.6 acres is affected; this is 0.56% of the park. This is less than 1/10th of a square mile. Most cottage lots will remain surrounded by provincial park land on all sides. Parks routinely exchange small parcels of land with municipalities in Ontario and nobody even notices. Meanwhile Clear Creek Forest Provincial Park expands by 65 acres, and Ontario Parks gets $30M to re-invest in the parks system as they see fit.

Under Minister Yurek's proposal everyone wins. This is the only workable solution going forward.

Myth: This lot sale was the RCA's idea and it went nowhere.

Fact: The lot sale was proposed by Minister Yurek on behalf of the Province of Ontario and was accepted by Mayor Canniff representing the Municipality of Chatham-Kent. It is mutually beneficial to both governments. Further meetings occurred, details were discussed, and a timeline was approved. The Municipality formally notified all cottage owners by mail that a lot sale agreement with the province was in the works. While the RCA offered our assistance as advisors, we are not party to the agreement. It is between the province and the municipality.