By Laurie Watt
The case against the Big Bay Point Resort wrapped up Wednesday, with the Ontario Municipal Board preparing for developer Geranium Corporation to start Monday.
Slated to last four and a half months, the hearing began Aug. 8. Rather than starting with planning arguments – as is usually the case with the OMB – the case brought forward by Nextnine Limited, a numbered company and the Innisfil District Association kicked off with a series of legal maneouvres, including a Constitutional Question, to have the hearing adjourned.
The Huron-Wendat nation has appealed to provincial courts for a judicial review of the OMB’s decision to continue the hearing on a resort that would feature a 1,000-slip marina, a championship golf course, 1,600 resort units and 400-room hotel. Covering approximately 600 acres, the development would also feature recreational and cultural amenities.
This week’s testimony was the climax of the environmental case against the resort, and next week, developer Geranium is to begin its defence – except for Oct. 23, a time when public environmental groups can have their say, from 4 to 7 p.m. Preregistered, they include the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, the Ladies of the Lake, Innisfil Residents’ Association president Nola Wale and other residents.
After weeks of legal wrangling, lawyers got down to planning arguments in late August, and environmental witnesses began testifying the week of Sept. 21.
University of Guelph zoologist and private environmental consultant Robin Craig was the first in the series to take the stand; he told the OMB Innisfil already fails to meet the 30-per-cent forest cover guideline, and the town cannot afford to allow more forests to be cut to make way for the resort on the shores of Lake Simcoe. Forests are critical in that they provide habitat for wildlife, and they filter contaminants from the land, especially those that contain phosphorous that can adversely impact water quality in the lake, he explained.
Naturalist Bob Bowles followed as he told the board at-risk species have been ignored in the developer’s studies, species including Blanding’s Turtle and butternut trees.
After breaking for a week, the hearing resumed the first week of October, with biology professor Dr. Tom Watson, followed by local planner Al McNair, and this week environmental sciences professor Dr. Peter Dillon, who wrapped up the opponents’ witnesses. (see related story)
Watson, an expert in fish biology and toxicology, said increased boat traffic will heighten the risk of fuel spills and leaks, as well as degrade the water quality in the basin by increasing the temperature. Watson also criticized some developer’s studies as being deficient and inadequate.
McNair, a Barrie-based planner, challenged the proposal based on the province’s plans to protect Lake Simcoe.
“In my opinion, the County of Simcoe has not planned wisely in selecting the Special Development Area designation for this second-home resort community. I believe the County of Simcoe used the Special Development Area to avoid the issue of whether this community of 4,000 to 5,000 people is a settlement,” he said.
Leading the case against the resort, lawyer David Donnelly called the label “a loophole so large … you could sail a yacht through it, (a yacht) that would make Thurston Howell III proud.”
Opponents of resort finish testimony at OMB
By Laurie Watt