The “floating box dream home” that is driving Georgian Bay Township crazy

CTV News in Barrie ran an uncritical and oblivious item about what it called a “floating box dream home” built by a Port Severn man that has been the subject of great concern for Georgian Bay Township, as I previously reported on one of their council meeting discussions. This news item was my first chance to see the edifice/boat in question, and it’s big. The story also revealed that the owner plans to make a business of building these things, which are converted steel shipping containers set on floating barges, for clients who want their own…well, what it is, exactly, has a big impact on whether it has any hope of clearing legal hurdles.

The line between floating home and houseboat is pretty grey. The Canada Shipping Act doesn’t really distinguish between them. Technically, anything that floats and can be moved around (including a barge) is a vessel, and as such is entitled to anchoring rights, as I discuss here. To my mind, the only hope the township (and other townships) have for avoiding a proliferation of de facto floating cottages is the province’s ability to limit anchoring rights through its jurisdiction over Crown land, namely the bottom of the bay. The province’s policy on anchoring rights is essentially the same one for campers occupying unalienated Crown land. They can stay in one place for no more than 21 days, and those days do not have to be consecutive. A vessel (or campsite) is considered to have moved, and to have reset the occupation clock, if it is moved at least 100 meters to another location.

I have a vague memory, some years ago, of a similar scheme to build and sell de facto floating cottages that would be based at Blackstone Bay and which would be moved to anchorages around Massasauga Provincial Park for the summer. That scheme didn’t fly, and I assume it was because the province cited its right to limit occupation of Crown land (the bay bottom) and said: no way. So my hopes are high that we won’t in fact see a proliferation of “floating box dream homes” in the anchorages of Georgian Bay. They’re so big, for one thing, that they could monopolize many anchorages. To my eye, a seeming fatal league flaw in this scheme is that the version shown by CTV has legs that can be lowered like pilings onto the bay bottom. The idea is that the dream home in question could be left for the winter in one place, out on the bay. There is no way for that to fly if an owner doesn’t want to run afoul of the province’s Crown land occupancy regs. And I imagine the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry would take a keen interest on how such dream-homes-parked-on-stilts would impact fish habitats. Presumably the guy who is building and promoting these things is giving these issues some thought.

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