• Protecting Water and Farmland in Simcoe County

Beeton Woods live on in Oro-Medonte

In AWARE News Network
Sep 19th, 2018
No crops on site of what was once Beeton Woods.

Piles of wood chips mark the site of what was a mature hardwood forest. There is no indication of any farming activity since the clear-cutting in December, 2015.

By Kate Harries AWARE News Network

‘Favoured’ and “non-favoured’ municipal election candidates are listed on an Oro-Medonte website – it could be taken by the non-internet savvy for an official township website, but is in fact the work of a group styling themselves Friends of Oro-Medonte.

Electors are urged not to cast their vote for – among others – mayoral candidate Sandy Agnew. In his case, the website cites as a major reason for disfavour AWARE Simcoe’s role in opposing a developer’s clear-cutting of 35 acres of forest near Beeton in New Tecumseth.


There are several inaccurate statements to support the thesis that AWARE Simcoe was at fault in this sorry episode – sorry because it shows how lawyers have infested our political and regulatory process and citizens are unable to truly participate without taking legal action.

Court action not ‘tossed out’

AWARE Simcoe became involved after some of its Beeton members raised concerns regarding irregularities in the way a Simcoe County Council hearing was held in the spring of 2015. The county clerk refused to allow them to bring their concerns forward before council and told them that their only recourse would be to take legal action.

Councillors voted to allow the cutting. AWARE Simcoe applied for a judicial review of the decision. A date was set for the spring of 2016. AWARE Simcoe applied for an injunction to stop the clearing until the hearing was held. That was denied and the forest was razed, in December 2015. With the trees gone, AWARE Simcoe decided to withdraw its judicial review application. Its action was not “tossed out” as stated on the Oro-Medonte website.

Marshall goes after AWARE

The motion to pursue AWARE Simcoe for costs was brought forward by then Penetanguishene Mayor Gerry Marshall – newly elected warden and eager to prove his credentials as a solid citizen (he had been somewhat of a thorn in the side of staff and leadership at the county in his first term). Oro-Medonte’s Harry Hughes was a keen supporter, demanding that we release our membership list (which would have been a violation of our members’ privacy).

Other councillors were less enthusiastic, arguing when the matter was first raised that the county benefits from having an organization like AWARE Simcoe. The issue dragged on over several months. Among those who commented was Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians. “The regulatory system in Ontario is a rubber-stamp process favouring wealthy developers,” she said. “Forcing community groups to pay court costs for opposing these developers is a perversion of justice.”

In the end, Marshall, Hughes and other long-standing AWARE Simcoe opponents prevailed and a majority voted to take legal action against the citizens’ group. County lawyer Marshall Green applied to the court, not only for the county’s costs, but also on behalf of the developer. The judge awarded the county $5,000 – a reduced amount because, she said, the county had “floundered procedurally,” and $27,000 to the developer.

Recently – Marshall, for reasons undisclosed, abruptly announced his departure from the political scene in middle of the current election campaign and is now the CAO of Wasaga Beach.

This was not about farming

The website states that AWARE was trying to stop a landowner from using his own land for agricultural purposes. Although that was the purpose offered on the special permit application, Beeton residents who were familiar with the activities of Tecumseth Estates, owned by the Rizzardo family, felt that the true goal was to facilitate future development by getting rid of a troublesome forest – designated Environmental Protection 1 and 2 in the town’s Official Plan.

And in fact, it emerged during the semi-judicial county council hearing that there was an open development application on the land, something that had not been disclosed when various government bodies signed off on the permit. That should have put an end to the tree-cutting plan – but the Rizzardos quickly withdrew their development application so it was no longer a factor when councillors reconvened their hearing.

In the wake of the rejection of AWARE Simcoe’s application for an injunction, the Rizzardos moved without delay, in December 2015, to remove the forest. Since then, the land has grown scrub, but no crops, making a mockery of the notion that agriculture was the purpose of the application. In October, 2017, the developer suggested to the Town of New Tecumseth that some of the land be used for a future road alignment.

Non-payment of court award

The website states that Agnew personally should have paid the court award. Agnew was a member of the AWARE Simcoe board which deliberated the matter. In view of the fact that lawyers may be reading this post, I will say no more. But Agnew was not in a position to make any decision on this alone.

The battle goes on

We are losing our environment at a frightening pace. But the regulatory system is not a friendly place for citizens who want to be involved. You are allowed to provide input so politicians can point to their inclusive consultation process – but don’t get too serious because they won’t listen. They tell you to lawyer up and then they go after you for doing so.

Who are these people?

No people have their names on the Friends of Oro-Medonte group’s website – which is being used to solicit donations. There is reference to a numbered company, 2649998 ONTARIO LTD. A corporate search reveals that Marc Cohen is administrator and the directors are Greg Groen, Josephone Martensson-Hemsted and David McKee.

8 Responses to “Beeton Woods live on in Oro-Medonte”

  1. Ann says:

    These 4 people are all involved with Stan Dunford and the Burl’s Creek Event Grounds.
    They are no friends of Oro-Medonte!
    Greg Groen is the President of the Oro-Medonte Chamber of Commerce, which is holding the All-Candidates meetings for the municipal election in O-M Township. So there is a clear Conflict of Interest involved here with Mr. Groen!
    It’s unethical if not against the Chamber bylaws for the President of the Chamber to be publicly partisan while the Chamber is holding non-partisan debates.
    The Board of the O-M Chamber of Commerce should ask for his immediate resignation.

  2. Farida Jones says:

    I just received a post card in the mail from this group which appears to be an official information card for the upcoming election. Turning it over revealed an unabashed support for those candidates who have supported Burls Creek and a column of those who have voiced concerns or are Save Oro members. This is like American style Super Pac advertising. Is it even legal to put something out like this? Who would have paid to send this out to -I am assuming- every household in Oro-Medonte?

    • Ann says:

      It is shameful and frightening what is happening with our local politics in Oro-Medonte!
      This group of 4 people who call themselves “Friends of Oro-Medonte” are really “Friends of Burl’s Creek”! They are incorporated as a numbered company but don’t disclose their names on their website and are asking for donations to fund their campaign. Is this what pays for their postcard and website promoting hatred and blackballing certain candidates with lies and innuendo?
      Mayor Harry Hughes even endorsed their website on his Twitter account, but has now quickly removed it because of much public backlash.

  3. Brian says:

    I have a business insurance policy through Huronia Insurance, which is where Greg Groen is an an agent/broker. Upon renewal I will be finding a new insurance provider as a protest against Mr. Groen political activities. I will be informing Huronia Insurance regarding the reason for my decision.

  4. Brian says:

    Note – Further to my prior comment about moving my business from Greg’s employer – Huronia Insurance, I have contacted Huronia Insurance and they indicated that Greg Groen left the organization several months ago.

  5. Norm says:

    Is Aware only meddling in the O-M election or have you sent similar information to all Township residents

  6. Maggie Curran says:

    News Release

    Ontario Takes First Step Towards Provincial Forestry Strategy
    September 27, 2018

    Province Will Listen to People of Ontario on How to Attract Investment, Create Jobs in Forestry Sector
    Starting in November, Ontario’s Government for the People will hold roundtables and gather online feedback to help the province lay out a strategy for promoting economic growth within the forestry sector.

    “A provincial forestry strategy is an important first step in unleashing the potential of Ontario’s forest industry,” said Jeff Yurek, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry. “We are creating the conditions that help the forestry industry to innovate, attract investment and create jobs and prosperity for the North and for all communities that depend on the sector. Working together with industry stakeholders we will send a message to the world that Ontario is open for business.”

    The first roundtable session will be in November in Sault Ste. Marie, followed by additional sessions in the new year in Kitchener, Kenora, Kapuskasing, North Bay, Thunder Bay, Pembroke, and Timmins.

    Ontario’s forest industry is an important driver of the province’s economy, generating more than $15 billion in revenues and supporting 150,000 direct and indirect jobs in 260 communities across the province.

    “Ontario’s wood and wood products are recognized around the world as coming from forests with the highest standard of forest management anywhere,” said Yurek. “Sustainable forest management helps Ontario’s forests remain healthy and productive, grows our economy and provides people with jobs.”

    For more information visit http://www.ontario.ca/forestrystrategy

    Media calls only: Jamie Hofing
    Minister’s office
    647 287-6286

    Media calls only: Media desk
    Communications Services Branch
    416 314-2106

    Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry

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