Private development rights versus the wishes of community members to leave certain areas undisturbed went head-to-head at Huntsville’s Planning Committee on November 12.
With a bit of resignation and a degree of sadness, Mike Pearse, representative of Tawingo College, made a passionate last-ditch attempt to stop development on what he described as the last bit of undisturbed shoreline on Lake Vernon.
With all that has been said throughout this whole process about vistas, wetlands, storm water, ridgelines, beavers, lake trout, bats, deer, neighbours, and campers…about the last piece of property of its kind on Lake Vernon – I am left wondering what it would take for the Town to say no to a proposed development of this sort…what would it take?Mike Pearse
“I would say to you Mike, that if I could vote with my heart you’d walk away happy. Unfortunately, we have to make our decisions based on planning rationale,” said Councillor Karin Terziano who sits on the committee.
The proponents, former mayor Claude Doughty and Gareth Cockwell, were given a green light to proceed with their proposal, following a series of modifications as a result of input from the Lake Vernon Association as well as recommendations from an environmental impact study conducted by Riverstone Environmental Solutions Inc., on behalf of the proponents.
Some of those conditions include the implementation of a storm water management plan for the entire property rather than on an individual lot basis, adherence to dark sky friendly lighting, greater setbacks for structures in sensitive fish habitat areas, greater setbacks and building prohibition near sensitive wetland areas as well as construction mitigation measures to protect existing habitat on those lands. The approval is also contingent on there being no breaks in the tree line around peaks and ridgelines and that monitoring be conducted by the municipality to ensure the restrictions, registered on title, are adhered to into the future.
Terziano conceded that while the parties would not be walking away content with all the decisions made on the proposal, she hoped their input has made it a better one.
“I think that the most important thing on this is that all sides have worked together and I think we probably have a better development than we could’ve had because of it,” said Terziano.
“I hope that the developer keeps all his promises. I hope that the Town is able to enforce everything that they say they can enforce and I hope that when you paddle down Lake Vernon, you still see a good deal of forest…”
The development was approved under a consent application, which means approvals for developments such as new lot creation, changing a boundary line or creating a right-of-way or easement can be approved at the committee level without requiring the final stamp of approval from council. However, because the property has to be rezoned under a new designation for all waterfront lots, the development is still contingent on council giving its final approval to the rezoning, explained Huntsville Manager of Development Process Kristin Maxwell.
Asked whether there is a limit to the number of lots that can be created under a consent application, Maxwell said Huntsville has none. She did say that if it involves the creation of, for example, municipally maintained roads, the application is then considered a subdivision or condominium development and would be forwarded to the District Municipality of Muskoka for comment/approval.
The 12 lots being proposed on Lake Vernon would be serviced by a private road.
Committee Chair Nancy Alcock noted that the development has been a learning experience for everyone involved and some items learned along the way will be incorporated into the Town’s Official Plan review.