Alliston, Ontario – Members of Campaign Lake Simcoe are supporting a Motion to adjourn the Ontario Municipal Board appeal of the controversial Big Bay Point mega-marina, which begins today in Alliston, Ontario. The groups argue that the motion should be granted and the province should protect Lake Simcoe before any new developments are approved.
Lawyers for the Innisfil District Association and Environmental Defence, Gilbert’s LLP, will argue that the developer failed to provide notice to and consult with First Nations; the proceedings are premature as the proponent lacks the necessary environmental approvals; the Premier of Ontario has recently announced the Lake Simcoe Protection Act; and, finally, the Moving Parties are unable to fully participate in the proceedings given the atmosphere of intimidation.
“Our groups cannot support a public process that allows a hearing to begin while our members are being sued for millions of dollars,” said Dr. Rick Smith, Executive Director, Environmental Defence. “The Government of Ontario must show leadership in this case and guarantee the rights of individuals to speak out against development and only permit hearings that are free from an atmosphere of intimidation.”
Both the Huron-Wendat Nation and Chiefs of Ontario have requested that the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing adjourn the hearing to permit First Nations to be treated fairly under the Planning Act. It is believed this is the first time that First Nations and intimidation claims have been appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board.
The Big Bay Point development calls for 1,600 resort units (fractional ownership), 400 hotel units, a 1,000 slip marina on a man-made bay, and an 18-hole golf course. The marina would be one of the largest inland marinas in the country.
“Why conduct the hearing now when the Lake Simcoe Protection Act is almost a reality and would prohibit development of this scale on the Lake?” said Robert Eisenberg, Co-founder of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition. “Nobody has a handle on the phosphorus levels in the Lake, and nobody can guarantee that this development won’t contribute to the problem.” Eisenberg is credited with blowing the whistle on overly-optimistic reports of phosphorus decreases in the Lake. Just last week those conclusions were confirmed by Dr. Jack MacDonald, head of the Scientific Committee of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition.
“Nobody seriously argues this development would be allowed on the side of the Lake protected by the Greenbelt,” said Natalie Helferty, Director of Policy and Campaigns, Ontario Nature.
Community members are concerned that not enough study of the site has been conducted by the developer’s consultants. For example, on July 23, 2007, a Blanding’s Turtle (a nationally Threatened Species) was sighted by the developer’s ecologist for the first time. A local field naturalist spotted a Blanding’s Turtle several years ago. The province approved a settlement with the developer even though the Amphibian and Reptile Protection and Enhancement Plan will not be in place in time for the hearing.
The Innisfil District Association has assembled an impressive list of experts and evidence to show that the project will impact on the environment and habitat of endangered species. Evidence will:
question whether the proponent’s reports, particularly the Environmental Impact Statement, properly account for the negative impacts of the proposed development on species, natural features and ecological function of the area;
show there has been insufficient study of the species and significant habitat present on the site; (i.e. butternuts and Blanding’s Turtle which are endangered in Ontario)
show the reports underestimate the impact of the interior road through the site and overestimate the potential for successfully “creating” new habitat to replace the habitat the proponents will destroy;
show that significant woodlots will be negatively affected and that the method of accounting for the interior forest lands is questionable; and
show that the planned golf course could have significant impact on water quality and has not been sufficiently reviewed
The Ontario Municipal Board hearing begins Wednesday, August 8, 2007 at 10:00 a.m. at the Nottawasaga Inn in Alliston, Ontario (Room 41, 6015 Highway 89; directions available online: http://www.nottawasagaresort.com/map.htm). The hearing is expected to last for four months.
Campaign Lake Simcoe is a partnership of Environmental Defence, the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, and Ontario Nature (www.campaignlakesimcoe.ca).
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For more information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232; (647) 280-9521(cell)
Robert Eisenberg, Co-founder of the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, (416) 484-1250
Natalie Helferty, Director of Policy and Campaigns Ontario Nature, (416) 444-8419