Company looking to develop Strawberry Island revisits original plans
By Patrick Bales, The Orillia Packet & Times
It appears the company that wants to develop Strawberry Island is heading back to the drawing board.
Sitting as committee-of-the-whole, Simcoe County councillors received an information report from staff indicating TAG Development (formerly Trans American Group) requested the county hold the file in abeyance. Correspondence received from the proponent indicated TAG would like to modify the proposal for Strawberry Island to a “reduced scale.”
That was music to the ears of one person who has fought the development since the beginning.
“It’s a huge relief because right from the start, we thought this development can’t be so big,” said Pam Fulford, who heads the Friends of Strawberry Island organization.
The issue transferred to county council last summer, after Ramara Township council gave its approval to Official Plan Amendment 18, which would see Strawberry Island designated partially “island accommodation” and partially “natural area protection,” paving the way for up to 80 residential units. At the time, Ramara Mayor Basil Clarke indicated it was in the best interest of the township to pass the decision-making process onto the county, as final approval would rest with it anyway. If the amendment was denied and a trip to the Ontario Municipal Board was needed, the burden would fall more so onto the upper tier of government.
The amendment record received from Ramara was deemed complete by county staff Sept. 18, giving the county 180 days under the Planning Act to make a decision. Before that time frame expired March 16, the abeyance was requested.
One of the main reasons the proposal could be redesigned was the contents of a letter sent to the county on the file by the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority last month. That letter indicated, in the authority’s view, the plan as submitted conformed to neither the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan nor the Provincial Policy Statement.
“We’re on the positive side of things,” Fulford said. “We’re going to be keeping a very vigilant watch on what goes on and try to make sure that the public has some input in the process in the future.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, Clarke sought assurance his township would have some say on what any future proposal looks like as well. He also wondered how long the proponent could sit on the proposal before the file is closed.
“There’s really no specified time frame,” said Dave Parks, director of planning, development and tourism for the county. “We would look for them to move quickly … We hope to have some discussions in the next few months, but they can’t linger this thing on for years and years. One way or the other, they have to let us know.”