• Protecting Water and Farmland in Simcoe County

Slip-ups bad for township’s reputation

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In Agriculture
Jan 4th, 2016
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By Dave Dawson Orillia Packet & Times

When it comes to planning matters, Oro-Medonte Township has a less-than-stellar record in recent years.

The development of Burl’s Creek could be used as a case study for all the wrong reasons; the transition from a little-used park to a major destination hosting world-class concerts has been fraught with planning pitfalls and municipal missteps. It remains a mess far from resolved.

One would think that disaster might have prompted more vigilance on the part of the township when it comes to development. Sadly, that does not appear to be the case and, remarkably, it took an eagle-eyed citizen to uncover the debacle.

In late September, Paul Sanderson noticed a parking lot was being constructed just off Line 14, up the road from Lake Simcoe’s Carthew Bay. Crews had clear-cut the 200-foot-wide-by-60-foot-deep site; all trees and vegetation were chopped down and removed. A little later, the topsoil was dug up and removed to make way for truckloads of sand and gravel to elevate the surface by several feet.

Sanderson could not discern any permits and was disgusted by the scorched-earth approach. It prompted him to look into the development and he quickly discovered the land in question was on the Oro Moraine and was considered environmentally protected. Furious, Sanderson filed complaints with both the township and the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority. Guess what? Sanderson was right.

Oro-Medonte Mayor Harry Hughes called the fiasco an “oversight.” He said the error occurred through a misreading of maps related to what areas of the township are environmentally protected. Earlier, Shawn Binns, the township’s director of recreation and community services, said something similar: “It was an oversight from the township’s perspective that a (conservation authority) permit wasn’t obtained. We fully acknowledge we didn’t get a permit.”

Hughes also vowed the township would work with the conservation authority to remediate the property to its former state and, over the past two weeks, the sand and gravel deposited by the township has been dug up and removed. New trees are expected to be planted in the spring to replace those cut down.

But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Oro-Medonte needs to review its entire planning process and the people in place who oversee it. How can an experienced staffer like Binns or an experienced council like the one at the municipality’s helm allow something like this to happen? It is almost beyond belief the township staff does not know what land is protected and what is not.

Fortunately, this mess can be cleaned up. While it will be costly in terms of trucking, salaries and various other expenses, the real price to be absorbed is the loss of faith and trust that ensues when a municipality loses its way time after time on important issues.

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