New five-year Saugeen land-lease agreement to take effect May 1st

Saugeen First Nation has been in the business of leasing lots since 1947.

As set out in a recent report, the original leased lots were “… in Block B along Bruce Country Road 13 and Block A from south of French By to Main Street in Sauble Beach …  returning indigenous war veterans were also each given a lot in Block A in recognition of their service.  Today, lease land also includes Chief’s Point, located just north of the Sauble River on the westerly point where there are River front cottages and cottages within a block of the river.

Saugeen First Nation has one of the largest number of leased lots among any First Nation in Canada and they are managed by Saugeen Land Office.  There are 1,249 total leased lots with 673 Band owned and 576 owned by Band members that are known as ‘locatee’ lots. There are another 419 vacant lots to date.  The physical cottage structure is owned by the cottager but the land is leased and owned by the First Nation band.

The existing lease was in place for 10 years but expires May 1, 2021. A new lease agreement has been negotiated for a five-year term that will take effect on May 1, 2021.  In 2020, the annual lease rates ranged from $4,025 to $7,318, depending on proximity to Lake Huron.  Currently, there are no waterfront lands available.

The annual lease lets cottagers reside full-time from May 1st through October 31st in addition to 10 days per month from November 1st to April 30th for recreational purposes.  Another option for lease holders is to extend the season for up to two months for an additional payment ($600+) per month.  All cottagers also pay an annual service fee of $1,000 to cover services that include policing, fire, garbage pick-up and lighting.

When it comes to water and sewer, many cottagers either draw water from Lake Huron or have wells on the property.  Cottages also have septic systems however, many of the septic systems were installed prior to regulation and, therefore, the Band is inspecting all septic systems and the existing owner will be responsible for upgrading the system to the present standards.

Just as with any municipality, building permits from the Band are also required for new cottages and renovations and set-backs must be approved by the Band and permission is required to cut down any trees.

Lease rates are set following a formal real estate appraisal along with INAC (Indian and Northern Affairs Canada).  In 1991, lease rates tripled from $800 to $2,400 and the Cottage Association tried to overturn the increase by going to court, but lost.

While cottage values dropped considerably in the 1990s, cottage properties across Canada are now in high demand due to pandemic travel restrictions that are keeping people closer to home.  For Saugeen First Nation, the high-demand is good news.  As sales are increasing so, too, are appraisal values and, therefore, lease rates are also expected to be on the increase trend.

The cottagers’ lease rates make up Saugeen First Nation’s largest “Band Fund” revenue source with approximately eight million dollars ($8million) generated annually.

Many cottages have been in the same family for three and four generations.  According to the report, two cottages that recently sold had been in the same family since the original lease in the 1940s.

New lease and service rates are not yet available.