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Concern about process and details to restore former summer camp

By Sharon Harrison
A re-zoning application for a former summer camp at Roblin Lake has drawn community concern over notifications and if approved, what changes would be allowed.

Comments on the Prince Edward County Lakeside Retreat Inc., application were heard from 11 members of the public at the virtual planning committee meeting last week, though it was noted a number of other registered individuals were unable to connect to the meeting due to unreliable technology.

Ameliasburgh councillor Janice Maynard raised the issue several times, noting concern that people were not getting through and that a number of emails sent by members of the public had not received responses.

“In many ways, this has not been an open, fair public meeting to the community,” Maynard said. “This is not conducive to a public meeting.”

CAO Marcia Wallace said it was fully recognized the electronic format is less than ideal for some residents. She also confirmed there had been some IT issues affecting connecting remotely, as well as receipt of emails, something that was being looked into.

The re-zoning application would allow the owners to extend operations by two weeks per year, and change its designation away from not-for-profit, necessary to obtain financing to restore the existing property. No new building or change of operation is intended for the property.

Those able to connect to the meeting cited concerns ranging from water quality issues and supply, noise pollution, traffic congestion and impact on the lake and wildlife.

The property was purchased last year, known as Prince Edward County Lakeside Retreat Inc., located at 467 County Road 19 in Ameliasburgh. The owner gave a detailed presentation on his vision for the property.

He said the 20 acres of land contain 23 buildings needing extensive work – 16 roofs require replacement immediately.

“Many of the buildings are at the point where if they aren’t restored now, they won’t be able to be saved. “My plan is to fix and restore what is there.”

Maynard noted the property had been used as a children’s summer camp for many years

He also spoke to a rich history and deep roots of the property, and specifically about Roblins Mills (now Ameliasburgh).

“It is a very special place. It is where Owen Roblin lived and created the mill that was across the street,” he said. “It is important to me to maintain and honour what this community stands for, and to continue to build on the family-friendly environment and nature we’ve all grown to love.”

His plans for the property are to restore the main lodge and the buildings to create a family- friendly retreat where occupancy of 50 people is intended.

“I am not planning to build anything new here. I am looking to restore the existing buildings.”

He says the current zoning allows for any type of overnight accommodations, with any type of recreational uses.

“The only adjustments I am looking to make to the zoning is to allow the property to operate 12 months a year, instead of 11 months and two weeks [non-profits are not permitted to operate year-round] and to allow it to be operated by a corporation and a non-profit, instead of a just a non-profit,” he said, confirming it is something that is needed to secure financing.

“The change to the zoning doesn’t impact the current use of the property, it simply allows us to get the funding we require to repair what is needed, keep the property well maintained and operational year-after-year.”

Evelyn Hennessey spoke on behalf of residents living on the south and west sides of Roblin Lake.

“We object to the re-zoning application and the applicant’s plans to operate a motel with restaurant and banqueting facilities in our tranquil residential cottage community.”

She listed objections as noise pollution, traffic congestion, water quantity and water quality, as well as water pollution, and water congestion and safety with increased boat and water traffic.

“Any commercial development on Roblin Lake would have inadequate fire protection and suppression,” added Hennessey.

Councillor Brad Nieman clarified the use of the property to include a motel, with Hennessey noting that if use was unrestricted, it could easily turn into a motel.

Resident Ken Debono said he was not against the development proposed, nor the vision outlined.”

“I support that vision 100 per cent providing the approval process for such development keeps the community’s interest and rights in high regard.”

Debono spoke to the process, noting concern a few people who were registered for the meeting did not have an opportunity to speak. He said no allowance seems to have been made for technology shortfalls.

“The attitude that the show must go on has prevailed. I find the excuse and the attitude completely upsetful and undemocratic.”

Debono’s second point raised the advisory notification of re-zoning applications, and how notifications are only made to residents within 120 metres, something that doesn’t work in the County due to the large parcels of land, he said.

“There were multiple requests to have the meeting delayed so that a grassroots effort to inform a larger geographical area that potentially concerned citizens could afford them the time to educate and organize, was requested by several members, and denied,” Debono said. “I don’t think enough people were made aware of this re-zoning.”

Ryan Bent said over the last 15 years the town has gone downhill dramatically and has become a place neglected and ignored.

“The property we are talking about has been in operation as a camp for decades. It’s been using the same water source as everybody else for years, and still is,” said Bent. “It was operational up until the time it was purchased, so it shouldn’t be an issue with water and people. The re-zoning isn’t going to affect anything.”

“It’s time we had something happen within the community and help a little bit of development. He is not looking to build a Marriott, he just wants to fix up the old cottages and just keep renting like it has been for 25 years.”

Others believed it would have a positive impact on the community including County resident Drew Byford; and Brenton Hall and partner Stephanie whose home backs onto the property. They would like to see the property repaired.

Michael Herman lives directly across from the camp said noise pollution is his biggest concern.

“The audience that is attracted to potential larger accommodation tends to be a lot of bachelorette parties and enforcing noise curfews is next to impossible,” said Herman. “Alcohol, which is a thing that many people come to the County for, is one of the greatest evils of lost sleep around here and is one of my biggest concerns.”

Councillor Jamie Forrester said he wished there had been a review by planning staff to help “understand what this is fully about.

“They already have the zoning, so they are conforming to their existing zoning that they already have,” he said. “The only thing they are looking to change is going to a full year. It doesn’t change how many people they get, the number of cottages, they are not changing anything.”

While he said he was hearing issues about septic, water, noise and so on, he noted those things can all happen under the existing zoning.

Sky Liddell reminded that the use of the property under the current zoning isn’t going to be changed.

“It will be a huge benefit to the community and in addition the amount jobs help to employ locally; it will be a huge benefit to Ameliasburgh,” said Liddell.

“His intentions and passions is to keep the history and the spirit of Ameliasburgh and Prince Edward County when renovating this property and that’s an important thing to keep in mind; to remind concerned neighbours of. This is good and the property will be a huge asset to the community.”

Mark Debono said he has multiple concerns to the potential operation of the family resort and re-zoning of the property.

“There is a general lack of information and understanding regarding the proposed plans for property and what it is zoned for right now,” said Debono. “What a summer camp can actually operate as, what the occupancy limit is on the existing zoned property as summer camp and what the restrictions on operation are for that summer camp.”

He said the community is upset with the lack of notice that was distributed.

“We would like to see future re-zoning, notice of it, within a 820-metre range.”

Debono also spoke to the finite water source, a potential increase in water consumption, potential detrimental impact on Roblin Lake and wildlife, potential noise, light and air pollution, potential over capacity within the small village, as well as excessive traffic, among them.

He noted concern of it operating as a 200-person family resort with no restrictions.

Municipal planner Jaspreet Deol confirmed the existing zoning (TC (tourist commercial)-43) permits for a summer camp and one single detached dwelling for a caretaker.

“The local bylaw definition states for a summer camp is any land, building, structure, use for the purposed of providing sleeping accommodation, eating facilities, recreational uses which is not open or operated on a year-round basis, and is operated by non-profit organization for its members or as a public service, and not as a commercial operation.”

She confirmed the applicant is proposing to change it to a TC zone which includes a summer camp, along with a tourist establishment, motel, hotel, tourist inn, resort establishment, golf course, mini golf course, golf driving range, mobile restaurant along with use to accessory to that and some permitted residential uses as well.

Doel confirmed the applicant has confirmed his intention is only to change from a year-round operation and move from the restriction of non-profit operating to the provision of the TC zoning to a family resort, so it would stay similar uses but would change the year-round and the non-profit aspects of the definition.

Ernie Margetson queried if the new zoning would include a restaurant, with Doel confirming the definition says ‘mobile’ restaurant.

“I find the use to be quite a large difference,” said councillor MacNaughton.

MacNaughton also raised the recurring chronic theme of the 120-metre minimum and requested it be reviewed for consideration, especially in rural areas. Councillor Forrester concurred.

Since many people were precluded from providing comments, councillor Maynard proposed an amendment to the motion, to direct staff to facilitate a neighbourhood meeting so the proponent can give details of the proposal. Margetson confirmed it would be initiated by the proponent. The amendment did not pass.

Following, CAO Wallace emphasized any members of the public who wanted to speak on this matter and were not given the opportunity should reach out to the planning department, or their local councillor.

Staff will review comments to be brought forward to a future meeting.

 

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  1. Elaine Kent says:

    I have many serious concerns with this proposed change. One being the effects on the enviroument, water, sewage, wildlife and of course noise levels, traffic etc. Two my concerns are if rezoning passes, possible flipping or selling the property in the future. The rezoning allows the new owner a broader spectrum of what they could possibly change the property into and at that point, we the residents have no course of action as the zoning laws will be on the new owners side. Opens up a whole lot of new problems. Lastly, we’ve had major problems this past year with tourists not respecting residences property. The litter thrown out of cars has increased. The defecating on the side of the road etc and although most of you do not see what this has to do with the property in question or the rezoning change, I see more problems with this in the long term especially if the property is flipped. I live on a corner lot of 2 extremely busy roads down from Roblin Lake and have seen the increase of the problems mention. It’s disgusting. I do not want to be a part of this change for growth under these terms. I’m not objecting to change or growth but in this case, I feel the proposed rezoning for this property would be detrimental to the community and the enviroument.

  2. Mark says:

    All water and wastewater infrastruture development costs should be shared by the broader tax base. Everyone benefits from the urban essential services,

  3. Neil Stanavech says:

    I support the general ideas of a remediation of this property.What I Do Not support is, any cost of this adventure being passed on to residents by way of tax increases and or , levies to cover the cost of infrastructure upgrades..i.e water , internet..etc.

  4. Ken Debono says:

    People are not opposed to the development or the rezoning per se, but the drain on the limited water supply, the (party) noises which travel quite far and loud across lakes, and light pollution – specifically increased parking lot lights on all the time and car headlights flashing in an out of peoples bedroom windows as guests enter and leave the property. This is not a NIMBY situation at all, the concerns amount to how those issues are mitigated by bylaws, bylaw enforcement officers, the proprietor, and municipal water governance. Addressing the concerns should also not affect the taxes for Ameliasburgians – especially the municipal water if it becomes and issue for those reliant on it.

  5. IGN says:

    Technological difficulties with people being able to participate in public meetings aside, it saddens me that so many in the County seem determined to complain and object to any and all proposals put before them. What on Earth is wrong with what this young gentleman is proposing! I for one have heard enough ‘Pearl clutching’ to last a life time!

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