Toronto – 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 foradopting 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 more information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232; (647) 280-9521(cell); firstname.lastname@example.org
Annabel Slaight, Co-Founder of the Ladies of the Lake. (905) 476-7575; email@example.com
Wendy Francis, Director of Conservation and Science, Ontario Nature, (416) 846-2404; firstname.lastname@example.org
Jon Johnson, Board Member of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, (416) 972-7444; email@example.com