By Miriam King QMI Agency
Big Bay Point Resort.
It’s a name that carries a lot of baggage. Environmental Defence. OMB hearings. Protests.
As construction gets underway on the championship golf course, 1,000 slip marina, 1,600 seasonal condo units and a 400 room hotel, the companies involved would like the public to forget about Big Bay Point Resort, and think of ‘Friday Harbour’.?”It’s a one of a kind community that will never be repeated on the shores of Lake Simcoe,” said Earl Rumm, principal of the Geranium group of companies, speaking at an Innisfil council meetingon June 20. “I’m excited that our collective idea is becoming a reality.”
He explained that the name Friday Harbour suggests the pleasure and “anticipation” of the end of the work week, “coupled with the idea of a sheltered and welcoming place.”
Geranium has partnered with architectural firms and RePlay Resorts — the company which, as InterWest, helped create the Mont Tremblant and Whistler resorts — to create the new lake-side community.
The resort has involved a “tremendous amount of work over the past 10 years,” said Bill Green, of RePlay Resorts. Unlike the old resort model of two or three decades ago, Friday Harbour will offer both a product and service, in a setting that will “blend rural and urban, cottage and city.”
The 600 acre property has been divided into thirds, with the Doug Carrick-designed golf course occupying the western third, the marina village to the east, and in the middle, a 214 acre environmentally-protected natural area.
“We think it’s a marvellous combination of country and city,” Green said, preserving the natural environment, “yet accessible by GO Transit.”
The marina village will feature 85,000 square-feet of commercial development, including waterfront shops and restaurants, with residential above, and a pedestrian and cyclist-friendly layout. The $1.5 billion project — which Green described as the largest project of its kind in North America — is now entering a new phase.
Friday Harbour will be unveiled to the public in mid-July, sales start in the fall, and construction begins in 2013, with plans to open the resort by 2015.
And the benefit to Innisfil? Approximately 2,500 new jobs, $190 million in annual expenditures, $59 million in development charges and building permits paid to the municipality, and $30 million in annual tax levies payable to all levels of government with $7 million going to the town.
Coun. Maria Baier asked Rumm about mitigation to offset the impact of construction on local residents.
She was told that trees have been left between the construction site and the existing homes to help buffer noise from construction and that sediment fencing and control ponds are being put in place. There will also be monitoring to determine any impact on water quality.
Rumm highlighted some of the green initiatives undertaken by Geranium, including additional amphibian breeding pools, use of stormwater runoff to irrigate the golf course, butternut tree replanting program and a new partnership with the Lake Simcoe Conservation Foundation through the foundation’s Inspiring Greener Communities Program.
“We’re going to sit down together,” he said, to work out how the LSCF and the resort can work together and a portion of every condo sale will go to the Conservation Foundation.
In the audience was Don Avery, president of the Innisfil District Association, which has opposed the Big Bay Point Resort,through an unsuccessful OMB challenge. He handed out a joint statement by Environmental Defence and IDA opposing the resort development and the sale of any publicly-owned land, road end or other property, to the developers.
The IDA and Environmental Defence have launched a petition to prevent the sale or lease of public land to the developer.