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Passionate community presses for open discussion on Quinte Isle expansion project

Community residents attending an information session on the proposed new development for 337 park model trailer sites at Quinte’s Isle Campark forced an impromptu change from one-on-one chats with consultants to an open discussion where everybody could hear questions and answers.

Jane Macdonald

“Pardon me for being a rabble rouser,” said Wellington’s Jane Macdonald as she stood on a chair to gain the attention of more than 60 community members milling about the Athol Town Hall Thursday afternoon. “I would like to have one person at a time answer our questions because we’re going one-by-one and it doesn’t cut it… I’d like to see an actual dialogue here,” she said to great applause and supporting comments from the crowd.

Though Patrick Harrington, Fourward Holdings lawyer for the Ward family, tried to remain firm that it wasn’t a public meeting and would continue with one-on-one conversations as planned, the vocal will of the community pressed on, until finally, Ruth Ferguson Aulthouse, Planning Consultant for the proposal, took the lead to begin giving the community what it sought.

The audience settled somewhat, and a question and answer period followed for about an hour and a half.

Ruth Ferguson Aulthouse in discussion with community members

Ferguson Aulthouse noted she wrote the Prince Edward County Official Plan back in 1990-92 stating it focused on making sure Prince Edward County was a community people wanted to live in, and raise a family. It also focused extensively, she noted, on tourism and tourism ‘corridors’ to enhance opportunities.

She said there has been significant time spent going through the Official Plan policies to show how the application to amend is appropriate.

An Official Plan and zoning amendment would see land at Quinte’s Isle re-designated from rural, to a shoreland designation to permit seasonal camping at 337 park model trailer sites on the proposed ‘Pebble Beach East’.

Financial benefits to the County include about $300,000 in property taxes, about $800,000 in charges and building fees; construction costs in the $2-$3 million range and six new permanent jobs.

In her opinion, planning review criteria and its many studies related to an Official Plan change, have all been followed to the letter.

“Much of the balance of the Quinte Isle property is already in shoreland, so there is a requirement to amend the Official Plan. There are many policies referenced in my planning report that the applicant needed to address, and we have, and in my opinion we have satisfied and met all the criteria for the shoreline designation. She assured the crowd a substantial part of the study has been on enviromental impact and follows protocols from the province and Quinte Conservation.

“It’s up to Prince Edward County planning staff to make that determination. They are still reviewing all of the work and all public input so we are not by any means through the process yet. We have submitted studies and the purpose today is to share findings and have people ask questions.”

“My planning report talks about this long-established tourist resort operation here – more than 30 years now, and over that time they’ve continually enhanced and developed. They’ve recently acquired these additional lands and they wish to continue to redevelop and enhance the camping opportunities.”

Tim Ward explained his parents bought the park in 1983 with 30 or 40 sites and a poor reputation.

“A year-and-a-half in my father passed away, so my mom was there with two teenaged sons,” Ward said. “So we went to work, and we worked, and worked and worked on a business that we could be proud of. That business is who we are,” he said.

“And well regarded,” inserted a community member.

“It is our lives. It is everything we do. We have built our business up to 619 sites. We are rated in the top two per cent of parks in North America. We are rated equally to Disney’s Fort Wilderness Park. Huge milestones along the way. It is who we are. We love being part of the community and want to be involved. Now our kids are coming into the business.”

“We look at it as how can we provide to more people who want to enjoy everything Prince Edward County has to offer.”

That includes a section to the east – the location of the Soup Harbour provincially significant wetland.

The planning justification report notes that in lieu of unevaluated wetland where the development is planned, a compensation area is to be constructed nearby. This would include a public viewing area, signage and parking area for 14 cars that would be accessible through a turnaround on Welbanks Road.

Concerns were expressed about the expansion being in the public interest; increased traffic with requests for a closer look at County Road 10 through Cherry Valley, and the “blind” bend on County Road 18 at the turn onto Salmon Point Road.

Access to the site would be through the existing Quinte’s Isle entrance with an emergency access available at 558 Welbanks Road.

“We could go on and on arguing and debating forever,” said Lynne Rochan. “I am annoyed I found out about this only a short while ago. I think our argument should be with the town council… You’ve obviously put a lot of time into this and probably have done a wonderful job… To me, the problem is that we have a plan and it should be adhered to, and if it going to be changed, the community has to be consulted,” she said to applause.

It was explained that once the complete application is filed, staff processes it, then tells council what’s coming with an overview report.

In May, council approved a motion seeking a staff report on proposed official plan and zoning amendments to be brought to a future meeting.

“That’s what was done in May of this year. There’s been no recommendations about what to do with this application. It still has to come back to the County,” said Harrington. “That’s one of the concerns we had in organizing this meeting. We don’t want anybody here to think they’re not going to get another opportunity or public forum to make their views known. The part we don’t know yet, because we’re in an election year, is what the timing is for that. What we’re trying to do is ensure is that when you do come to the council to make your views known, you have all the facts that we can arm you with in order to make an informed decision about whether you support it, or don’t.”

Those at the meeting were encouraged to leave contact information to continue to receive updates. A website containing up-to-date information and copies of surveys and reports was also recommended by community members.

“Good neighbours have conversations early,” said County resident Nina-Marie Lister, representing a new Friends of the South Shore group that put out a call to community earlier this week, concerned the public was not being invited to ask questions about the project. “We appreciate the opportunity to ask questions publicly so our friends and neighbours can understand what is really at issue; what we will have to pay for, and bear.”

By meeting’s end, lawyer Harrington was visibly relieved the change to open discussion did not produce the wrath he feared.

“I thank everybody in attendance tonight. You never know what you’re walking into with these types of formats. As a lawyer, it is my job to make sure the clients and consultants are protected from a firing squad and I’ve been to those types of meetings – but this was far from it. This has been a very constructive dialogue; everyone has been very courteous and had tough questions for us to consider. We’ve got homework to do and I hope it was constructive for you as well. I hope I didn’t offend anyone by trying to keep the format, construct the format, because I wasn’t sure what the open format would generate, but everyone listened intently and I thank you very much for the participation you’ve given tonight.”

“What you’ve learned about the County is it’s passionate,” a community member responded.

 

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  1. Dee says:

    This coverage of the meeting brings things into context for me.
    it is not just about the application for expansion of a trailer park but also about the Official Plan and ample opportunity for community consultation.

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