Madawaska Valley held a public meeting on August 29 to hear comments regarding the Zoning By-Law Amendment Application made by Combermere Lodge Limited for the development at Chippawa Shores. Staff from both the Township and County of Renfrew, all members of Council, and representatives of the proponent attended. They were joined by 70 members of the public during the three-hour evening meeting at the Paul J. Yakabuski Community Centre in Barry’s Bay. Above: Robert Walsh (left), Neil Enright, David Hunter for the proponent.
County Planner Charles Cheesman kicked things off by reviewing some of the changes in the revised Plan submitted in April 2019. He said there are now 44 proposed lots instead of the original 54 (as presented at the public meeting last fall), a common element boat launch into Green Lake has been included and a common element boat launch into the Madawaska River has been removed. He explained the roads in the subdivision are common elements so the condominium corporation has responsibility for them, not the municipality. Cheesman reviewed some of the recommendations from the peer review and technical studies conducted. These included geotechnical tests, hydrogeology, Landscape Plan, Surface Water Impact Assessment, and a Natural Heritage Study and Environmental Impact Assessment.
Above: Cheesman drew attention to the proposed setbacks and buffers shown in the latter study. Blue = 10m construction setback; Magenta = 30m no disturbance setback; Yellow = 30m construction setback
Cheesman said all the documents are available on the County of Renfrew website and noted that in this case he took the innovative step of compiling a chart of every comment or complaint received along with the response. Click HERE to access the documents. He pointed out that holding this second public meeting during the summer months was a direct result of comments made after last October’s public meeting. He warned that Bill 108, which he thinks will be passed into law very soon, removed the right of the public to appeal a Plan of Subdivision or Plan of Condominium although they can still appeal a Zoning By-Law if they speak at a meeting or send an email to Council, giving the file number. He advised to be sure to reference the Zoning By-Law Amendment:
- Zoning By-Law Amendment – Chippawa Shores Subdivision
- Related Plan of Subdivision/Plan of Condominium Applications County of Renfrew File Nos: 47-T-18001 and 47-CD-18002
David Hunter, President of Combermere Lodge Limited, explained the pros and cons of a condominium administration structure and how the common elements could be used by all the property owners. Along with reducing the number of lots, he said they had reduced the size of the subdivision from 77 hectares to 62 hectares in terms of land use. He then asked Neil Enright, as an advisor to the company, to review the changes that had been implemented since the first proposal.
Better than a trailer park
Enright reminded the audience that the property was already zoned Tourist-Commercial and it could have been developed as a high-density trailer park. He said future users of the property will not be transients but will be residents in the community. He said the re-zoning from Tourist-Commercial to Estate Residential added environmental controls such as vegetative buffer zones which MV does not presently require. The condominium plan allowed them to retain Chippawa Lodge for its important heritage value.“The changes we are proposing are very positive and it seems somewhat puzzling there is so much opposition to it because we are improving things dramatically rather than going backwards.” As an example Enright said that their studies had identified additional wetland areas.
Make it an eco-development
Then it was the turn of the public. First up was Doug De La Matter (left) who opened his presentation by saying he was generally in favour of a well thought out plan of development. He said, “As a long-time resident, I am aware of how important it is to enlarge the assessment base so that more people are available to share the costs of running a township. However, attracting people is a delicate balance, and poorly planned development can be just as effective in driving them away.” He urged members of Council to be very methodical in reviewing the plan, saying, “Any problems arising from the planning and enforcement of conditions will be the responsibility of the Condo Corporation and ultimately, the municipality. Township residents will come to YOU for solutions, and we will all face the bills for enforcement of environmental restrictions and remedies.” He then outlined his suggestion to further enhance the development from an environmental point of view, a suggestion he said would make Chippawa Shores a unique and more marketable development. His idea was to increase all setbacks to 100m from the shoreline and keep the natural vegetative buffer zone as a common element. He said, “If the new bylaw requires that condominium lots have no private access to shoreline and at least 100m of common parkland be reserved along the Green & Labrador Lake shoreline, and perhaps 50m of common parkland be reserved along the river shoreline, Chippawa Shores becomes unique.”
Environmental damage insufficiently mitigated
The meeting then heard from Al Stinson (left) who acknowledged the benefits from this project including increased tax revenue, short term employment as well as noting that the proponent has spent a lot of money acquiring these lands. However, he warned that development will cause serious negative environmental damage. He contrasted the recommendations from the public and the peer review studies with the proponent’s response noting that, in his view since the public meeting last October, the developer had not taken public and peer review concerns seriously and had only proposed minor, cosmetic revisions. Stinson focused on mitigation in three areas:
- Environmental impact: He said the current proposal lacks adequate shoreline and wetland protection and suggested specific changes to address this. Stinson said the development is potentially in violation of the Provincial Policy Statement and Official Plan which requires protection of natural heritage features like wetlands and shorelines.
- Effect on adjacent landowners: Stinson forecast a negative impact, both environmental and aesthetic, from the present setback proposals. He said the Recreational Crowding Assessment (in the Surface Water Impact Study) of Green and Labrador Lakes said they could accommodate two additional lots but fifteen were proposed.
- Boating safety: He was concerned to reduce damage to the shoreline created by boat wakes. He said Geofirma’s crowding assessment showed the Madawaska River is already way beyond capacity and that in the widest portion of the river there is a safe boating corridor only 10m wide. He pointed out that no speed limit is enforceable under current regulations.
A developer’s perspective
Mike Bouck (left) said he is a developer who has developed some of the most sensitive places in Canada such as Whistler and now develops mostly industrial properties in Alberta. He related advice from a fellow developer who told him if a property contains wetlands he should, “Find if the road goes the other way and get out of there. We can’t make any money and it’s no good for anybody.” He said BC and Alberta are two provinces he knows of that “if it’s wetlands, it’s better not to develop them.” He outlined the main unresolved problems in the proposal:
- Proposed over-development of the Madawaska River and Green Lake
- Effects on the groundwater, surface water and viability of a continued healthy environment on the site and surrounding areas
- Hydrogeological and geological issues presented by proposed development of a wetland site. He discussed the absence of a soil test for load-bearing. He said a basket test of soil was dug up on the site to see how much water was in the basket resulting in the contents being described as brown sand, silt and grey sand (quicksand). He advised that this did not hold up foundations and forecast challenges with building, potable water and septic.
He supported an earlier development proposal utilizing better land fronting on Kamaniskeg Lake which could support buildings. He said he no longer supported the proposal calling the condominium approach a “leaderless” development. He concluded by saying, “In my opinion, this project should not be authorized, there should be no zoning change or any change in the status of this until there is an inclusion of a Performance Bond in the application. Otherwise the community will suffer the most through increased taxes to pay for the consequences of a leaderless development because, to be very clear, once these lots are sold Neil Enright is no longer involved. There is no recourse to him or to the County, it’s only to the Council on our behalf — and it’s our money. So the conflict and confrontation that will result from developer’s unilateral style. That’s enough, I’ve said my piece. I just think we’re not being treated fair and we’re not in the Ozarks.”
Peer review studies questioned
Katie De La Matter who grew up on Green Lake began by recalling the impact of living with the algae bloom of 1986 and reviewing correspondence from the Ministry of Environment at the time. She said, “Development in general is important to the County and the Township, and very positive. But we can all agree that the value of lakeshore frontage, and the tax revenues that come from that value, rely on not destroying the lake.”
She pointed out the challenge of introducing additional development on a small lake that had already suffered an environmental crisis.
She then tackled the most recent data provided by both the proponent’s and the peer review studies, pointing out numerous inconsistencies such as:
- random sample of problems in the final report
- inadmissible data being used for phosphorus calculations (a significant consideration when discussing algae)
- a selective approach to following peer review recommendations
- oversights with the large animal wildlife survey
She expressed serious concerns about the conclusions reached from incomplete and inaccurate data. De La Matter posed several questions including whether Green Lake is really only moderately sensitive? She ended her presentation with a plea to wait for a set of plans supported by valid and complete data before making a decision about the impact of the proposed development.
(Above) Katie De La Matter displayed excerpts from the peer review studies and then showed material challenging them. Referring to the top image, she said, “Here we have Geofirma saying the probability of threatened Algonquin wolves on the site is low.” Referring to the bottom image, she said, “Here’s a photo of Wolf W1737 on Green Lake last winter. She is with the Lake of Two Rivers pack and would have been following deer out of the Park. Genetically, the Ministry says, based on their collar which identified her, she is an Algonquin wolf. How are these wolves, which are threatened as Species At Risk, going to be protected?”
Also present for the proponent was Robert Walsh, senior engineer from Geofirma Engineering Ltd. with a background in hydrogeology, who had spoken at last October’s public meeting. As the author of some of the studies, he was invited to respond to Katie De La Matter. Among other points, he responded to her concern about increased phosphorus levels in Green Lake and her observation that samples were taken at temperatures that were too high. Walsh said that taking water samples at higher than recommended temperatures wouldn’t affect any decision making. He said that a reading taken this year was better than those in the study but they didn’t want to make yet another revision to the application documents to reflect it. In the end, he said, it wouldn’t make any difference because they had already found according to the model it is at phosphorus capacity. He then said that the actual effect of development is minor as in most of the fourteen lots proposed for Green Lake, the groundwater is actually flowing away from the lake.
Robert Walsh (right) responds to Katie De La Matter (left) as Mayor Love listens
Several other members of the public expressed their concerns, supporting many of the comments already made and raising additional issues.
Mayor Love said the public can submit comments on the Zoning By-Law Amendment in writing and Council will read those comments. She asked members of Council if they had any questions or discussion. They did not.
CAO Klatt read out the necessary public notices regarding who is entitled to appeal:
- If Council refuses an application or does not make a decision within 120 days of receipt of the application by the municipal clerk, the Applicant or the Minister of Municipal Affairs may appeal to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) by filing an appeal with the municipal clerk.
- No later than 20 days after Council gives notice of passing the By-Law, the Applicant, any person or public body who made oral submissions at the public meeting or made a written submission to Council before the By-Law was passed, or the Minister of Municipal Affairs, may appeal to LPAT by filing an appeal with the municipal clerk.