By: Derek Howard
Caution was given to a proposed zoning bylaw amendment in Tay Township, as members of council and the community were left confused about the intent behind the increase of wilderness protections on some lands.
The discussion came about during a recent public meeting that proposed a rezoning of a roughly 175-acre portion of Tay properties between Rosemount Rd. and Gratrix Rd. adjacent to the south side of the Rail Trail.
Several zones exist within the subject area, but to satisfy a condition of settlement from the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) it was proposed that the rural ‘RU’ zone and environmental protection ‘EP’ zone be rezoned into an environmental protection exception ‘EP’ zone.
If approved by Tay council, the end result would mean that some elements afforded to those zones would be removed – existing agricultural use and forestry use associated with non-intensive usage of lands, buildings or structures for agricultural (crops, livestock) purposes – and be left with only forestry reserve, conservation use, and conservation and wildlife sanctuary as the only uses permitted in that area.
Planning and development services manager Todd Weatherell presented background information to council and those in attendance at the public meeting.
“All the applications that are north of the rail trail were withdrawn,” explained Weatherell. “The Ontario Land Tribunal, the county, Mr. (Dean) Artenosi, and the township agreed upon only allowing for the three lot creations south of the rail trail.
“The remaining lands would be all joined to Mr. Artenosi’s lands for land assembly, and hence one of the conditions why we’re here today was that they proposed a rezoning to basically join those lands into an environmental protection zone – to leave it, basically, status as is… a natural state.”
As part of the public meeting, Weatherell stated that one correspondence had been sent in from a local preservation group – the Talpines Property Owners’ Association – in opposition to the rezoning proposal application.
Weatherell summarized: “They felt that there’s rumours out there that there’s a golf course being proposed and that there’s some tree cutting. That is not the case; the proposed zoning bylaw will not allow tree cutting and will not allow a golf course. If the applicant wants to put in a golf course, they’ll have to go through the proper planning procedure, planning applications and necessary studies.”
Previously, a proposed ‘world class golf course and residences’ called the Admiral Resort was pitched by Arten Development Group as a 315-acre land assembly ‘east of Victoria Harbour on Sturgeon Bay, west of Waubaushene’ which had ‘been assembled over the last 10 years for the development of a major resort/residential destination’, as cited from a 2017 post on the project website.
Neighbouring residents brought concerns to the meeting as well.
One Gratrix Rd. citizen questioned what “the angle” was for the proposed zone change, which Weatherell reiterated was one condition of the OLT settlement. Another citizen from Rosemount Rd. stated that wildlife protection for animals and fish was of utmost importance, allowing Weatherell to explain that two provisions which would normally allow for building use would be removed through the process if approved, thus strengthening the natural aspect further.
Mayor Ted Walker spoke in cautionary terms with hypothetical scenarios that could be faced by a future council.
“This whole thing has been extremely confusing, and one wonders what the end goal is with this,” said Walker, questioning why the Talpines group would be objecting since the 175-acres were a distance from the waterfront and Highway 12.
Weatherell believed that the objection was based on the original proposal of years prior to tie landholdings together on both sides of Highway 12.
Walker stated that he couldn’t foresee “anything coming before this council, or future council” to change the environmental protection if it was approved.
Said Weatherell, “As in previous reports, there is a provincially significant wetland area in (the north portion of) that area, so any type of development has to meet the growth plan policy; there has to be distances, separations, everything else.”
Finally, Walker asked hypothetically if a future hired consultant could challenge the environmental protection zoning change; Weatherell pointed out that environmental impact studies and peer-reviews of those studies could be requested by council but would have to be dealt with at that time.
Meeting chair Deputy Mayor Barry Norris pointed out that township bylaws restricted clear-cutting of trees.
“Any cutting of trees will have to be under the guidance and supervision of the county or the (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry). So it’s not like somebody can go and clear-cut any particular property,” said Norris.
Last year, a developer family in Tiny Township came under fire for proposing a minister zoning order (MZO) – a provincial land use override policy – regarding a multi-million dollar clubhouse and golf course expansion, which included clear-cutting private lands without authority from the township or provincial government. The developer later apologized for the error and the MZO request was withdrawn after public outcry.
With no further questions from the public or council, Norris asked that members of the public wanting to comment further on the proposed bylaw could provide written letters to the planning and development services division by email or fax.
Tay council meets for regular council meetings every fourth Wednesday of the month. Archives and livestreams of council meetings are available through the Tay Township YouTube channel.
Further information on the public meeting can be found on the Tay township website.