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Public opposition of proposed Penetanguishene subdivision growing

In Council Watch
Feb 12th, 2018
Residents fight to save woodland –Metroland photo

Margie Green, Sue Wilson, Graham Coulter and Josh Warriner are fighting to save a 30-acre urban woodland. –Metroland photo

by Andrew Mendler Midland Mirror 

Public opposition of a proposed 117-unit residential subdivision west of Church Street in Penetanguishene is gaining momentum.

Queen’s Court Development Ltd. is seeking approval to build a subdivision consisting of 89 single detached homes and 28 townhome units on 30 acres between Fox and Church streets.

Graham Coulter, Sue Wilson, Josh Warriner and Margie Green were among the residents within 400 feet of the development who were notified by mail about this pending application.

After attending a Jan. 24 town council meeting, where plans for the subdivision were publicized, the four launched the Preserve and Protect Penetanguishene Facebook page.

“We started up this group because we feel people further than 400 feet should know about this. This is dealing with the town’s character,” said Coulter. “We are opposed to this, but maybe the rest of the town isn’t. We want everybody to be aware of it and make their own decisions.”

This Facebook page has grown to over 600 members — the majority of whom are adamantly against the development.

A public meeting was hosted by these four passionate residents on Feb. 7. The group shared their concerns about the development and asked for attendees to sign a petition opposing the project.

“You need to tell the town what you think. I cannot stress that enough. We have been told by councillors and by (planning director) Andrea Beatty that (residents) need to speak up,” said Wilson. “Every one of you have a voice. Let it be heard.”

The group’s main concern is over the preservation and protection of the forest, which would be destroyed to build the subdivision.

A 2008 urban woodland assessment conducted by the Severn Sound Environmental Association classified the woodland as a gold level site and recommended it be retained and protected.

A 2013 environmental impact study reported the site contained six different vegetation communities, 81 different vascular plant species, six mammals including white-tailed deer, 25 species of birds, three species of amphibians and two endangered species of bats.

The town’s official plan does not designate the area as environmental protection. However, the new official plan, which is in the draft stage, does classify any significant woodlands as environmental protection.

A Natural Heritage Study, done alongside the official plan, identifies this forest as a significant woodland habitat with groundwater protection functions.

While multiple reports find the woodland to be significant, the term is quite broadly defined in provincial policy and the determination of whether a woodland is significant falls on the municipality.

“This woodland does have attributes which could lead to its determination as significant in accordance with the Provincial Policy Statement, but which equally may not qualify it,” states the environmental impact study. “The Town of Penetanguishene can only make a determination of its significance in consideration of this woodland’s size and character in relation to other woodland areas within the entire municipality.”

These four residents are hoping enough people voice their concerns to convince council to vote against the subdivision.

The matter will come before council on March 14.

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