Residents sizzle over proposed burger joint
By Cheryl Browne, Barrie Examiner February 13, 2013
ORO-MEDONTE – Residents of Oro-Medonte Township don’t want anyone to pave paradise and put a hamburger spot.
A pre-hearing of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) at the Oro-Medonte Township office was attended by a few dozen residents and landowners who want to have their say at the hearing about whether a Weber’s restaurant can be built on rural land.
“You’d be astonished at how much weight the (board) member gives to the people who live in the area in question,” said Colin Hefferon, chairman of the OMB hearing.
“In a recent case in Hamilton, one of the determining factors in my decision was how the community was defined. So, something like this is of much broader interest to the immediate neighbours than the whole community.”
The land in question is 88 acres across from Mount St. Louis Moonstone. The proposed Weber’s restaurant would only use seven acres, but home and business owners in the area are not convinced it’s the right place for a hamburger joint.
The property at 99 Mount St. Louis Rd. is on the southeast side of Highway 400 just east of the ski resort, and is currently zoned rural, agricultural and has environmental protections placed upon it.
Weber’s owner, Thomas Rennie, who also owns the popular Weber’s restaurant on Highway 11 north of Orillia, had asked council to rezone a portion of his land to commercial zoning.
Oro-Medonte staff had not made a decision regarding zoning changes and various environmental studies within the provincially-mandated 180 days, so Rennie’s Crestwood Park Holdings company requested the OMB’s intervention.
The restaurant will be open every day from Easter to Thanksgiving, on weekends during the off-season and is expected to employ about 65 people.
There are many issues the OMB hearing will consider, including whether or not it’s part of the Ontario Places to Grow plan, and whether it conforms with the official plans of Simcoe County and Oro-Medonte.
There are environmental concerns, as well, including the Coldwater River tributary with turtles, ducks and geese, as well as fish, said Rob King, who grew up on the 4th Concession and now lives on the land adjacent to the property.
“There are rainbow trout in the spring and salmon in the fall,” said King, who listed himself as a participant who will make a presentation at the August hearing. “These are environmentally protected lands as designated by the township, the Nottawasaga Conservation Authority, the county and the province and he wants to put a hamburger restaurant on that land,” he said, shaking his head.
Not only are there environmental concerns, including credible sightings of a threatened species of eastern Meadowlark, but Sarah Huter of the Mount St. Louis Moonstone ski hill said the increased traffic is of major concern to the neighbourhood.
“The traffic monitoring (for the hearing) was done on a Thursday,” Huter said. “We expect about 6,000 skiers to visit on Family Day and on long weekends in the summer, the highway is at a standstill. You can’t measure traffic in that area in the off-season.”
Gary Nychka moved his family from Brampton to Oro-Medonte a dozen years ago for a better quality of life.
“I pick up 10 bags of garbage out of the ditches each spring now,” Nychka said. “It’s all fast-food cups and containers and there’s not a restaurant within 30 kilometres of my place. If you put a fast-food restaurant down there, who’s going to clean that up?”
The OMB hearing is scheduled for Aug. 6 to 19 at the Oro-Medonte Township office.