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LSRCA identifies adverse impacts in Strawberry Island proposal

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Feb 21st, 2016
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Strawberry Island

Conservation Authority advises against approval of condominium development

By Kate Harries AWARE News Network

The Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority has advised Simcoe County that a proposed 80-unit condominium development on Strawberry Island violates provisions of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan and does not comply with the Provincial Policy Statement (a key land use planning document).

“As such, we recommend that these comments be addressed to our satisfaction prior to any final approval of this Official Plan Amendment,” Charles Burgess, the authority’s manager of planning, writes in a February 16, 2016 letter that outlines a wide range of concerns regarding the development’s impact on the island’s important ecosystem.

OPA 18 was adopted last summer by Ramara Township, on the advice of its contract planner, Mark Dorfman, who has been criticized by the Friends of Strawberry Island group for providing council with “blatantly incomplete and incorrect information.” Ramara Mayor Basil Clarke’s was the only dissenting vote.

Final approval of the OP amendment, proposed by Edmonton-based TAG Development (formerly called Trans America Group), rests with Simcoe County Council. The matter may be discussed at the county’s March 8 committee-of-the-whole meeting.

“The island contains key natural heritage and hydrologic features as defined by the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan,” Burgess states, including significant woodland, wetland and wildlife habitat. The island is also home to endangered and threatened species, and there are concerns regarding the effect on fish habitat associated with Lake Simcoe.

Burgess notes that LSPP policies prohibit development and site alteration within a key natural heritage or hydrologic feature, and that a 30-metre vegetation protection zone is required. However, it appears that the Official Plan Amendment adopted by Ramara has designated “Island Accommodation” in such key areas, permitting “incompatible land uses such as single detached and multiple dwelling accommodation units.”

The authority calls for a Natural Area Protection designation for the key areas, including the buffers, and notes: “It should also be demonstrated that 80 units can be accommodated in a sustainable way within the remaining developable area.”

The LSRCA letter also calls for more detail to demonstrate that there will be safe access for occupants and emergency services in light of the shoreline coastal hazards to which the 10.4 ha island is exposed such as flooding, erosion and icepiling.

Strawberry Island

A peer review by W.F. Baird & Associates of a coastal engineering evaluation by Shoreplan Engineering determined that insufficient information has been provided. It noted that Shoreplan did not undertake a site visit, and did not investigate the project with respect to the requirements of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan. The proposed sewage disposal system appears to violate a provision of the LSPP that prohibits any part of the system, including underground sewer lines, within 100 metres of the lake.

A review by LSRCA ecologist Shauna Fernandes of the Environmental Impact Study submitted in support of OPA 18 notes that the island was evaluated on the same basis as a mainland feature.

“The consultant does not review the importance of the features from a rarity perspective of being a secluded island,” Fernandes writes. “It does not consider the impacts on island species colonization and species diversity. With large-scale removal of the habitat, as is proposed with the woodland, species that are water locked would reduce in population size or disappear when resources are no longer available.

“The area sensitive birds will no longer exist on the property due to the increased openness and we will see very common generalist species increase.

“This island demonstrates significant wildlife habitat for breeding amphibians, small mammal, evidence of large mammals for migration stopovers (evidence of black bear), and breeding and stop over habitat for a considerable amount of avian species including many that are area sensitive.

“There are approximately 6 different Ecological Land Classification habitats on the property and larger features include wetland, woodland, shoreline, and Lake Simcoe which have complex relationships that are not well-defined in the EIS.”

Full text of Feb.16, 2015 letter to Simcoe County: LSRCA – Strawberry Island

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