• Protecting Water and Farmland in Simcoe County

Resident lambastes ‘scaredy-cat’ council 

In Agencies
Jul 28th, 2015
Packet & Times photo

By Patrick Bales, The Orillia Packet & Times

Development on Strawberry Island is one step closer to reality but still a long way off.

Ramara Township council voted Monday night to approve an official-plan amendment designating Strawberry Island partially as “island accommodation” and partially as “natural area protection,” paving the way for up to 80 residential units.

Council stressed the approval did not mean it was willing to support development on the island, as the staff report from township planner Mark Dorfman indicated a number of steps would still need to be completed by Strawberry Island Resort Inc., including a class environmental assessment.

Pam Fulford, who heads Friends of Strawberry Island, was unhappy about but not surprised by the vote.

“I’m terribly disappointed with the council,” she said. “They’re just little scaredy-cats …. They won’t stand up for the Lake Simcoe Protection Act.”

Fulford and her group argue such a development should not happen on the island for a variety of reasons, including to avoid an increase in phosphorus deposits in Lake Simcoe and to prevent the destruction of “significant woodland.”

The only member of council who escaped Fulford’s wrath was Mayor Basil Clarke, who was the lone dissent in a recorded vote on the amendment.

“The mayor knows what he’s doing,” Fulford said. “He’s the only one with any sense on the council.”

Clarke still has concerns about the size of the project, which is why he suggested an amendment that limited the density of any development on the island to 13 units per hectare, aligning with the rest of the township.

“That way, if the developable land shrinks, the amount of homes also shrinks,” Clarke said. “That’s a little more control, but I still have trouble with that density of 13 units per hectare. That’s what we allow in Brechin and other areas; I didn’t think it belonged on one of our islands.”

The issue is now in the hands of Simcoe County. The county will give the final say on the official-plan amendment, potentially setting itself up for an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) hearing.

Council’s decision could save the municipality money in legal costs, the mayor argued.

“For the time being, it’s not our fight at the OMB,” he said. “If we said no, then, absolutely, the owner would have taken us to the OMB, and council didn’t feel we had a strong enough case that we could win, so it would be a waste of taxpayers’ money.”

That’s cold comfort for Fulford, who admitted Tuesday morning she was still “a little shaken” from the outcome of Monday’s meeting.

“I think that Ramara council had an opportunity here to step out as a leader in environmental protection and good planning,” she said. “Unfortunately, against the mayor’s wishes, they miserably failed.”

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