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Friday, February 23, 2007

Big Bay Point Resort gets nod - despite Essa’s objection

Resort gets nod despite Essa’s objection

Essa Township urged Simcoe County to not approve the Big Bay Point Resort plan, for fear that more developers will seek to build golf courses and resorts.
“We’re going to be the Caribbean of the north, where our kids are chamber maids and short-order cooks,” said Essa Mayor David Guergis.
“All of our municipalities have had mega land purchased by developers. In Essa, we’ve had a large group out of Calgary purchasing land, and they haven’t purchased it to grow crops … I have grave concerns with this. We have to look past this development.”
However, other county councillors voted to OK the project.
County planning director Ian Bender and its consulting counsel Mark Noskiewicz urged county councillors to approve a Memorandum of Settlement, which averts what was expected to be a six-month Ontario Municipal Board hearing. Legal fees for the county would have been “several hundreds of thousands”, the county’s finance manager noted.
With council’s approval, he can now go to a Feb. 28 OMN prehearing to tell the board the county no longer objects to the plan for the resort, which has been scaled back from 4,200 units to 2,000 – which includes a 400-room hotel.
The plan also protects an 87-hectare greenland area as an Environmental Protection area, in the centre of the site. An 80-hectare area now used for farming, however, will become a golf course, on the resort’s western boundary.
Noskiewicz also told council that the province’s regulations regarding waste management are much more stringent, and the province also recognizes the need to protect Lake Simcoe. The province assisted with the settlement, through the provincial development facilitator’s office.
Councillors were also concerned about the number of requests coming forward to build golf courses on agricultural land, proposals very similar to the one planned for the resort.
“A developer in Ramara has proposed a golf course on class 3 or 4 (agricultural) land,” said Ramara Mayor Bill Duffy.
Noskiewicz, however, reassured politicians there were still checks in the planning process to ensure other developers wouldn’t use the Big Bay Point Resort plan as justification for their golf course plans. He also suggested municipalities update their Official Plans to recognize these growth pressures.

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