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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Big Bay Point proposal passed overwhelmingly at County

Big Bay Point proposal passed overwhelmingly at County
Simcoe County councillors have given their support to a revised Big Bay Point resort proposal by an overwhelming margin.
In a special meeting held last Wednesday afternoon, county councillors voted by a margin of 84 to 7 in a recorded vote to support the modified plan.
But it saw the mayor of Essa township express grave concerns that the approval of the proposal may open the floodgates for major development in South Simcoe outside of existing settlement areas. He and deputy mayor Terry Dowdall were the only two county councillors to vote against the proposal.
The special meeting was held in order for the county's support of the motion to be recognized at a pre-hearing meeting of the Ontario Municipal Board today (Wednesday).
The county's Corporate Services committee had given its support to the revised proposal at its Feb. 14 meeting. The county defeated the original proposal in 2004.
With the county's support of the project, it is expected that a planned OMB hearing scheduled for May on the project will be either dramatically shortened or possibly not even held.
A six month long hearing had been expected.
Development on the project could start as early as this year.
County planner Ian Bender said the proposal by Kimvar/Geranium Corporation had undergone dramatic revisions in the past two years which meant the proposal better fit the county's definition of a resort development. The conclusion of the Internal Governmental Action Plan (IGAP) also gave some indication about the province's attitude about projects like Big Bay Point.
"We had seen it as premature until the settling of the IGAP study," he told council.
Simcoe county began negotiating a compromise with Geranium/Kimvar and Innisfil last August.
An OMB hearing had originally been scheduled for last Fall but negotiations started last August between all parties.
"It was a very productive and collaborative process," said county lawyer Mark Noskowich. "It is an improved proposal which is a win/win proposition for all concerned."
But Essa township's
mayor Dave Guergis told the rest of council that the concerns raised three years ago about the lack of infrastructure to accommodate the proposal had still not been met.
"We have been warned about the impact of development on Lake Simcoe. I can't see the proposed golf course, the storm water from the resort or the additional places on the marina benefitting the long term health of the lake," he said.
1,000 slips are proposed at the marina in addition to 2,000 resort units which will include not less than 400 hotel units and 1,600 other resort units.
"We have problems with our road system and lack of space at Royal Victoria Hospital."
Guergis also said that the jobs promised by the development would be largely low paying.
"These are going to be service jobs. We seem to becoming the Carribean of the North here in Simcoe County. Will our kids become chambermaids and short order cooks?"
Guergis said, that from a broader perspective, the decision on Big Bay Point will act as a precedent for other developers to push for mega-developments in areas not designated as settlement areas in South Simcoe"
"Will this open the door? Have we created loopholes? We already have a large group from Calgary buying lots of agricultural land in my township and its not for farm land. It is of grave concern and we should be drawing the line."
Other councillors raised other concerns about the development.
Adjala-Tosorontio mayor Tom Walsh said that he was in general support for the project but the problem of waste bothered him.
"Where is the waste going to go? Is it going to go outside the county or will it be heading to our landfills?"
Innisfil deputy mayor Gord Wauchope said after the vote that he felt that the county had made an excellent decision.
"It's going to bring jobs. We will be seeing employment at the proposed shops and stores in the development. The construction jobs will be high paying jobs. They aren't going to be all low paying jobs."
Wauchope said that Innisfil, Simcoe County and the developer had worked well together and brought in a solution satisfactory to all.
"We have seen a reduction in the number of proposed housing units from 4,200 to 1,600," which Wauchope felt met many of the early concerns from neighbouring residents about the size of the development.
Innisfil mayor Brian Jackson was unable to attend the meeting.
Simcoe County warden Tony Guergis also praised the compromise solution.
"I think that it shows the great faith that we have in our staff in reaching a solution in staff. It was a long process which will see the protection of heritage lands," he said.
Guergis noted that the proposal will see the location of a new ambulance station in the area which will serve both the resort and residents in northern Innisfil.
Guergis added that the county was facing possible legal bills of upwards of $2,000,000 if the OMB hearing had run the full six months with no guarantee that the proposal would have been rejected.
"It's always a gamble at the OMB. I think that our solution is really a reflection of what is acceptable to all parties," he said.
County planner Ian Bender said that the various residents groups are supportive of the proposal.
He said that there had not been any individual objections to the OMB on the proposal.

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