County council grants population allocations in Wasaga Beach, Innisfil
Some of the concerned Wasaga Beach residents who attended a county council hearing on the Easdale wetland. Among them – front row, fourth from right – is Town Councillor Sylvia Bray. -AWARE Simcoe photo
By Kate Harries – AWARE News Network
Some 30 Wasaga Beach residents watched from the public gallery as Simcoe County councillors approved extra population for the town to allow a development to be built near a wetland in their neighbourhood.
The project – along with three others okayed by council at a semi-judicial hearing on Tuesday – has one more hurdle: Official Plan Amendment approval by county council in January, at which time planning and environmental concerns are to be considered. Tuesday’s hearing was supposed to deal only with population issues.
Resident Mario Nobrega spoke for the contingent from the Eastdale area. He noted that the numbers in the gallery for the daytime meeting did not reflect the high degree of public interest on the issue, which had resulted in packed council chambers when Wasaga Beach council okayed an Official Plan Amendment requested by 2344473 Ontario Inc.
“We need to encourage development towards the core of town,” Nobrega said, as opposed to “this site far removed from the core and lacking proper infrastructure.”
Seventy five per cent of Ontario’s wetlands have been destroyed or degraded, he said, adding that the Eastdale wetland, east of Allenwood Beach, one kilometre from Georgian Bay, performs a valuable function in absorbing runoff, including that from nearby cattle operations in Springwater Township.
Nobrega said residents do not understand how the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority was able to alter the delineation of the wetland to accommodate the proposed development. He noted that the map showing the setbacks required to protect the wetland appears to show the boundaries going through the bedrooms of some of the proposed units. Residents have written requesting explanations to the NVCA as well as the ministries of the environment, and natural resources, he said. “We are still awaiting replies.”
Nobrega urged councillors to consider the importance of wetlands such as this one, and vote their conscience.
Springwater Mayor Bill French expressed concern about the location and the high density of the development. Midland Mayor Gord McKay said the project, in an isolated area, is far from being a complete community. Kris Menzies of MHBC planning consultants, who appeared on behalf of 2344473 Ontario Inc., said the policy criteria test is not whether a development has all the constituent parts of a complete community, but whether it contributes to one.
Tiny Deputy Mayor Steffen Walma said he could not vote for the project because the NVCA had redrawn the boundary of a provincially significant wetland and he needed more information on how that had happened.
Wasaga Beach Deputy Mayor Nina Bifolchi responded, explaining that “the MNRF being the sole approval authority, they have been onsite and accepted the new wetland boundary.” She said the ministry of natural resources and forestry, along with the NVCA and the developer’s consultant, had reviewed the wetland. “Parts of it were deemed not to be in a wetland any more but other parts of it needed to be included so that’s where they drew lines.” This appeared to reassure Walma.
Responding to further questions from French and Tiny Mayor George Cornell, the county’s planning director David Parks said that the new boundaries were established by an environmental impact study which is currently being reviewed by county staff and will be the subject of a report to council in January – which is when council can address such issues. Park assured French that the setback boundary that appears to transect buildings is supported by the EIS.
Without the population allocation, the OPA could not go ahead because Wasaga Beach is at its growth limit under rules set out by the provincial government. Council voted overwhelmingly to approve the allocation. Springwater Mayor Bill French, Deputy Mayor Don Allen, Bradford West Gwillimbury Mayor Rob Keffer and Oro-Medonte Deputy Mayor Ralph Hough were the only ones observed to have voted against (it was not a recorded vote).
The Eastdale project was one of four developments that needed bonus allocations – three in Wasaga Beach and one in Innisfil. All were on lands considered not for urban uses, but within settlement boundaries. The requests were for:
– 174 people in single detached and townhouse units at Eastdale Drive in Wasaga Beach, on the north end of the 88-hectare property owned by 2355573 Ontario Inc., presently designated rural. This represents a portion of the proposed 361-person (156-unit) development, 52 per cent of which is on land already designated residential.
– 278 people in 120 units on Deerbrook Drive in Wasaga Beach, at the other end of the property owned by 2344473 Ontario Inc. in the Eastdale area, also presently designated rural. Menzies of MHBC addressed council on both of these projects.
– 75 people in 42 townhouse units on a Sunnidale Rd. property owned by Wasaga Dunes Resort Inc. that is bordered by the McIntyre Creek and is mostly undevelopable, being environmentally protected and habitat for the at-risk Eastern Hognose Snake. Brandi Clement of Jones Consulting Group made the developer’s case to council.
– 405 people in 152 detached units on farmland adjoining the Cookstown Creek, owned by 2081788 Ontario Corporation. Lawyer Harry Froussios spoke on behalf of the developer.
Council’s approval means that the county has allocated 6,560 of the 20,000 bonus population granted by then infrastructure minister Bob Chiarelli five years ago. A sunset clause means there will be no further approvals under the program.