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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Lake Simcoe Groups Unite

Lake Simcoe Groups Unite

    Provincial interest needed in Big Bay Point resort development

A number of Lake Simcoe environmental groups
are calling on Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and the Minister of Municipal
Affairs and Housing, John Gerretsen, to declare a provincial interest in the
proposed Big Bay Point Resort development by Kimvar/Geranium. The groups are
seeking to ensure that the Province, and not the Ontario Municipal Board, has
the final say on the protection of the Lake.
The development of 1,600 resort units (fractional ownership), 400 hotel
units, a 1,000 slip marina and 18-hole golf course could seriously threaten
the water quality of Lake Simcoe.
The Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, Environmental Defence, Ontario Nature
and Ladies of the Lake all say this declaration is mandatory to protect Lake
Simcoe. The sufficiency of recently announced studies to determine the impacts
of the proposal on the Lake is also being left to the OMB, providing further
reason to make the declaration say the groups.
"The sheer size and impacts of this development mean we're in uncharted
waters and need to be extraordinarily cautious before approving anything,"
said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director, Environmental Defence. "Leaving the
defence of Lake Simcoe to the Ontario Municipal Board is a ship-wreck waiting
to happen."
Environmental groups around the Lake are still steaming over the
province's refusal to intervene and stop the development of Moon Point, one of
only three natural shoreline areas around the entirety of Lake Simcoe. The OMB
approved development of monster homes and septic tanks on the site despite
clear evidence of salamander habitation, possibly the nationally threatened
Jefferson Salamander.
On April 5, 2007, the Province released a Memorandum of Settlement
relating to Big Bay Point that requires the developer to complete three
studies to the satisfaction of the Province, before the developer can get any
planning approvals. However, if the developer disagrees with the Province, it
is the Ontario Municipal Board and not Provincial environmental experts who
will decide.
Ultimately, this case proves the need for adopting strong environmental
legislation that covers the entire Lake Simcoe watershed. Individuals,
non-profit organizations, and community associations should not have to shell
out to protect land in a watershed already suffering the effects of phosphorus
pollution.
"Alteration of the natural environment on this scale should not proceed
in advance of imminent planning reforms, including possibly extending the
Greenbelt to Simcoe County," said David Donnelly, counsel to Environmental
Defence. "Until the people of Ontario have a definitive answer to how much
development Lake Simcoe can take, particularly focusing on cumulative impacts,
all new development is premature in my opinion."
On March 1, 2006, the McGuinty government acted to protect Lake Simcoe by
declaring a provincial interest in the so-called UCCI Development in
Oro-Medonte. Yet that proposal called for only 386 units and a golf course, a
fraction of the Big Bay Point development footprint.
The environmental groups noted that the 1,000 marina slips nearly triples
the current number and will make the marina over twice as large as any marina
on Lake Simcoe and could make it one of the largest on the Eastern Seaboard.
No members of the citizens' groups working to protect Lake Simcoe were part of
the process that established the number of units and boat slips. This was
established in negotiations between Geranium and the County. If as few as
10 per cent of the unit owners had seadoos, it could mean an increase of
160 seadoos in the immediate lake vicinity.
"There are members of our Board," said Ladies of the Lake Co-founder
Annabel Slaight, "who do believe that modern developments, properly situated
and carefully planned with environmental protection as a goal, may help the
environment. But we have insufficient evidence-based information about the
impact of human activities for this large, possibly precedent-setting lakeside
development. It might be taking us closer to the tipping point, and no one, as
yet, has even the criteria for measuring the cumulative impacts of the human
factor."
"Lake Simcoe is one of the jewels of southern Ontario and must be
protected," said Wendy Francis, Director of Conservation and Science for
Ontario Nature. "Left out of the Greenbelt, and the target of exponential
growth under the Places to Grow Act, south Simcoe County is a magnet for new
sprawl."


For further information: or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521, ext. 232, (647)
280-9521 (cell), jfoulds@environmentaldefence.ca; Annabel Slaight, Co-Founder
of the Ladies of the Lake, (905) 476-7575, aslaight@rogers.com; Wendy Francis,
Director of Conservation and Science, Ontario Nature, (416) 846-2404,
wendyf@ontarionature.org; Jon Johnson, Board Member of the Rescue Lake Simcoe
Coalition, (416) 972-7444, patjon@rogers.com

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