Oro-Medonte resident says conservation authority should penalize township over wetland situation
By Andrew Philips Orillia Packet & Times
ORO-MEDONTE – An Oro-Medonte resident who sounded the alarm over the township’s decision to turn a protected wetland into a parking lot wants the local conservation authority to employ “full, active and transparent justice.”
Paul Sanderson said the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA) needs to penalize the township for its decision to begin building a parking lot last fall at the site on Line 14 near Carthew Bay on Lake Simcoe.
Sanderson said he also wants the conservation authority to oversee remediation work at the site now that township officials have acknowledged their oversight in failing to recognize the land’s Class 1 environmentally protected wetland status when they approved parking-lot construction.
At the end of September, Sanderson became concerned after noticing crews clear-cutting and removing all trees and vegetation from the estimated 200-foot-wide and 60-foot-deep site, which was followed a short time later by the removal of all topsoil and the eventual addition of sand and gravel to create three to four feet of new elevation.
Late last month, the township began restoration work on the site.
Sanderson said since the conservation authority operates with an estimated $14-million annual budget and employs 103 full-time-equivalent workers, it should have the resources to ensure remediation oversight and that court action occurs.
“It would cost them under $5,000 in legal costs and to have someone oversee the work,” he said.
Rob Baldwin, the conservation authority’s general manager of planning and development, said the agency’s goal is always to work with the landowner to resolve issues.
“Laying charges or imposing penalties is a method of last resort, when we cannot reach resolution through negotiation,” he said. “In this case, the municipality is committed to working with us and we’re satisfied that the appropriate steps are being taken to resolve the matter and remediate the area.”
But Sanderson, who has written to LSRCA planning and development manager Bev Booth about his concerns, said levelling a fine would serve as a deterrent for municipalities and property owners in the future.
“If the LSRCA doesn’t actually proceed with prosecution, you are sending the public message that this is no big deal,” Sanderson wrote.
“What you are saying is that you can mess up badly and there’s no real cost. There is no deterrent to future violations by the defendant, which would be something I would think the LSRCA would desire.”
Shawn Binns, Oro-Medonte’s director of recreation and community services, stated in an earlier interview the parking lot was seen as a way to provide greater access to the waterfront for township residents and visitors.
“A couple of years ago, the opportunity came up with the Carthew Bay store,” Binns said at the time.
“We entered into an agreement to create a parking area. It was an oversight from the township’s perspective that a CA (conservation authority) permit wasn’t obtained. We fully acknowledge we didn’t get a permit.”
But Sanderson said the conservation authority needs to have someone monitor the remediation work to ensure the proper soil, trees, grasses and other greenery used adhere to what was there before.
“OM (the township) is not exactly an ‘expert’ in environmental matters generally and specifically in rehabilitation,” he said. “I don’t believe OM has the internal resources or will to complete remediation in a scientific manner.”
And as the primary plaintiff in the matter, Sanderson is also asking Booth for all correspondence between the LSRCA and the defendant, including the LSRCA summary report.
“In light of my position in this matter, a Freedom of Information request should not be required,” he added.