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Friday, August 03, 2007

Big Bay Point - hearings to start

Despite Simcoe County and Ontario approving the Big Bay Point Resort, the Ontario Municipal Board is still booking four and a half months for a hearing that starts Wednesday.

“In talking with people here, they think it will (last that long),” said OMB spokesperson Bob Wilson.

The OMB is bracing for a barrage of expert witnesses from both developer Geranium Corporation and opponents Nextnine and Innisfil District Association.

“The general wisdom is people are still at complete opposite ends,” added Wilson, noting that the case no longer includes the County of Simcoe.

Innisfil District Association president Don Avery said the hearing will last as long as the developer wants.

“I don’t know if the developer wants to be short-and-sweet or drag it out. We’ll have to wait and see,” he said. “How long it will go is hard to say. We would hope it would not proceed based on emotion.”

Nextine and Innisfil Action have lost high-profile municipal affairs lawyer Jane Pepino. She has been replaced by well-known environmental lawyer David Donnelly.

“Jane felt the province was going to carry the load on the environmental issue,” said Avery. “I don’t believe that. The size of the project with the 1,000-slip marina is on an unprecedented scale and will have environmental impact.”

The road to the resort has been a long one, and included several detours.

The county had delayed approving the resort, as it awaited results of the Intergovernmental Action Plan (IGAP) study, which it received a year ago.

During the past year, the developer has also scaled back the number of units and revised its site plan, to ensure the resort does not become a settlement area. The county approved Innisfil’s official plan amendment that allows the resort to proceed in February and Ontario signed off on the plan in June.

As well, Premier Dalton McGuinty has said the resort would not be subject to the Lake Simcoe Protection Act, which he promises will pass if his government is re-elected in October.

“Geranium has worked very long and hard. It has been a five-year process, and to have received approval from the Town of Innisfil, the County of Simcoe and finally the province is very encouraging,” said company spokesperson Jim Maclean.

“We’ve certainly gone the extra mile – or kilometre – to consult.”

After the county approved the plan, the company hosted discussions with area residents and a variety of stakeholder groups, to fine-tune its plan. Geranium is also extending sewer and water services into the area, which will help get as many as 1,600 homes off septic systems and onto municipal services.

The OMB hearing starts at 10:30 a.m., and is open to the public. It takes place at the Nottawasaga Inn, room 41.

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