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Council sends planning denial on Trae resort back to staff for report considering public concerns

UPDATE NOV. 28: Instead of ratifying the call from the Nov. 22 planning meeting to deny re-zoning for a eco-resort on County Road 7, councillors voted at Tuesday night’s council meeting to defer the application back to staff.

Councillor John Hirsch gained support to ask staff to produce a new report, considering public comment on the proposals, to reduce the impact of the development on the neighbourhood.

Developer Alan Hirschfield was in attendance at the five-hour council meeting, awaiting the decision of the planning meeting to come forward.

Council learned he is prepared to consider public comments and acceptable proposals such as moving the entrance way road to the east; moving the parking lot further back off the road and planting trees in front of it; replace the large floating dock with a smaller one on the east side of the Bat Cave; eliminate the provision of day passes and restrict the number of weddings to perhaps 10 per year.

“Things like this could be done and would satisfy the residents much more than they were that night,” said Hirsch.

North Marysburgh ward councillor David Harrison supported the motion.

“In the County, and in our township particularly, cottage resorts have been an important part of the County fabric and economy for well over 150 years.

Just in North Marysburgh in my lifetime, in Cressy alone, we had five, six cottage resorts that I could name the names of. In Waupoos, we had at least seven, as well as some of the others in the township. Some of these are functioning yet today, some aren’t.

“I would also like to point out other cottage resorts all around this great County that have supported and supplemented the economy. As well as some farm families for generations. And they were of a much higher density on the water itself, not buffered by an EP zone.”

I think it’s a viable enterprise and I think it’s the type of development – low density – that I’d like to see in my ward.”

 

 

Council denies tourist re-zoning for eco-resort, amid neighbour objections

By Sharon Harrison
NOV. 22: Following lengthy debate, and much concern voiced from neighbouring residences, a re-zoning application to tourist commercial (from rural) for a 33 acre parcel of land at 2353 County Road 7 failed to receive council approval at Wednesday’s planning and development committee meeting.

In a recorded vote, councillors Roy Pennell, Sam Branderhorst, Corey Engelsdorfer, Kate MacNaughton, Janice Maynard, Phil Prinzen, and mayor Steve Ferguson voted against allowing the application to proceed.

Earliers, three amending motions  did carry that included removing the interim control bylaw provision (by councillor Nieman), including a no day-pass use of the facility (by councillor Branderhorst), and moving the driveway farther to the east side of the development (by councillor Harrison).

The staff recommendation, had council approved the application, would have changed the zoning  to Special Tourist Commercial (TC-60) zone from Rural 1 (RU1) zone for the purpose of a three-season tourist establishment.

Also proposed, was for the Environmental Protection (EP) zone to be re-zoned to Special Environmental Protection (EP-16), to permit recreational uses, although it was noted the escarpment and the two ephemeral wetlands would be protected.

The proposed development, known as Trae Resort, would have included the establishment of a resort, a hotel, spa, café, an assembly hall, event venue, and accessory uses. An application for a zoning bylaw amendment was filed by the applicant, 2353 County Inc., in December 2022. The property owners are a group of Toronto investors and include Alan Hirschfield (former owner of Fields of Wellington sub-division proposal).

Had it gone ahead, the resort would have brought 19 two to three-bedroom, high-efficient, eco-cabins, and 12 studio cabins, translating into 54 beds, so approximately 100 people overnight capacity. The cabins were promised to be compact, efficient and made of natural, low-impact materials.

“The 19 two to three-bedroom cabins will contain kitchenettes, bathrooms, and private living space,” noted Matthew Coffey, approvals co-ordinator with the County. “The studio cabins will resemble a motel-style with back-to-back rooms arranged in a pod.”

Additional amenities included a swimming pool, pool house, golf cart pathways, and walking trails, with waterfront features to include on-land decking, removable docking, swimming, and the use of the existing dock structure.

The site consists of open space, treed areas and an escarpment which descends to the waterfront below. Buildings on the site include an existing shed located above the escarpment and a docking structure at the water’s edge (known by locals as the ‘bat cave’).

In his report, Coffey noted the EP-16 zoning would permit additional uses, limited to walking trails and structures, such as observation platforms and decks. Kelly Graham, an associate with Toronto-based SvN Architects and Planners, gave a brief presentation on what she described as a “low-impact, sustainable, small-scale tourism development”.

Several members of the public, specifically close neighbours of the proposed resort, spoke at some length, at the podium and virtually (written comments were also received), objecting to the development, and speaking to the character of North Marysburgh being changed.

Concerns raised were numerous and included the sentiment by many of how neighbouring residents purchased their properties because they were in a residential area, only to have it become a commercial establishment.

Of great concern was the misconception and the belief by neighbours that only certain people were invited to this meeting and others were not, where it was indicated some neighbours wanted to attend but were not invited.

The misunderstanding was later explained by staff, who clarified anyone can attend a statutory planning committee meeting, which are not subject to invitations, and anyone can show up or join virtually, and anyone can speak. One speaker said there were 10 neighbours that wanted to come to the meeting that weren’t invited, something they didn’t understand.

One woman who identified as a direct neighbour to the proposed resort indicated she was fifth generation County, and had huge concerns with the proposed resort having enjoyed the rural beauty of it, and its residential zoning, for a number of years.

She was concerned about the number of people the building would attract, but mostly had concerns about the zoning change, stating there were many unanswered questions that need to be addressed before the zoning gets changed, “because it can change people’s lives”.

“It’s a huge concern for the whole neighbourhood that we don’t put the cart before the horse and change zoning that’s been there for a good reason, for a long time,” she said, adding, “Proposing a ‘wedding factory’ in the middle of a residential area isn’t right.”

She also expressed concern about the assurances, specifically that the property owner wouldn’t change or expand uses once the re-zoning was approved, also asking, “how will we know it will stay eco?”

Her husband added he had less concern about the cabins and people staying there, but was concerned about the bigger events (parties and weddings) that the resort may attract, and was also worried about electronically amplified sound outside, especially when it was near water where it is known sound travels differently.

“If everything is contained on 100 feet from our deck, a 100 feet from our house, it’s going to be chaos every weekend,” he said. “It seems like too much: can we take the wedding part away, and the event thing away?”

He reminded the property owner is coming into a residential environment with residential neighbours “who have been living there peacefully for some time, and we bought there because it’s quiet”.

His wife also voiced concern with over 150 people being on one dock on what is a relatively narrow piece of waterfront, due to the shoreline being mainly cliff, where she also was worried about the effect so many people would have on the eco-system.

“It’s a cliff, except for that one little area we call the bat cave, and I would ask you to consider the actual topography of this piece of property.”

Another in-person speaker spoke on behalf of his wife who runs and operates a 126-acre farm immediately adjacent and immediately across County Road 7 from the proposal, on a farm that pre-dates confederation, where he described the development as “incompatible in both scale and in use”.

He also spoke on behalf of the woman who owns the farm immediately adjacent to his wife’s farm.

“No one in the room has a more direct impact from the adverse impacts and the conflicts that this development is going to revisit on my wife’s current, and future, agricultural uses, and also on the amenities she enjoys in her residence,” he said.

He also said, the developer, before submitting this “elaborate development application”, made no effort to reach out, “and address and engage with my wife”.

He said council is being asked to approve something with too many unknowns.

“At the end of the day, what you decide is going to have intergenerational impacts on the liveability,” he said. “And I can say categorically, this is going to be the most impactful development we have seen in North Marysburgh in at least 25 years.”

“This project is grotesquely over capacity in terms of land ability to absorb this type of a development; it‘s just too intense,” he added, “And it confirms the incompatibility of this development with respect to the rural and agricultural nature of North Marysburgh.”

What is the purpose of the zoning if you can turn around and change something in the middle of it on a dime? asked another.

Councillor Kate MacNaughton said she was concerned with the scale, and “adding any remote resorts because that just puts cars on the roads; it’s bad for the environment, bad for our roads, bad for the infrastructure if it’s beyond a very small-scale development”.

The official plan notes that County Road 7 is designated as a municipal tourism corridor and as such tourism-related development is a focus for the County.

The property has 204 metres (669 feet) of frontage along County Road 7, and extends north 658 metres (2,159 feet), and also fronts onto Adolphus Reach.

MacNaughton said there are some very good eco features; “it is a lower carbon development, rather than a lower impact, just due to the size of the main dwelling which is considerable”.

She also addressed the activities on the site and the impact to the surrounding area given the comments surrounding noise, water, use for weddings and events that will go late into the night.

Forming part of the application documents, several submitted written comments from the public were also against the application proceeding.

Gail Forcht had several things to say, not least about traffic calling it “dangerous”, especially the speed of some drivers, the lack of paved shoulders, two blind hills and the number of driveways fronting County Road 7, some of them hidden from the road.

“As a tax payer, I am not seeing a developer stepping up to improve our road, nor put a paved shoulder on it,” she said. “Before the County engages in yet another resort, please look at it from a perspective of impact to the environment, the residents who reside there, and a cost to everyone to accommodate more traffic on a road that is supposed to be a ‘country road’, not a highway nor main thoroughfare.”

Rachel Donen and Dorothy Chen wrote that allowing a zone change to commercial tourism use of the proposed property is greatly concerning in North Marysburgh.

“North Marysburgh consists of residential and farming land. These are people who make North Marysburgh their home and community,” they wrote. “Re-zoning to commercial use is greatly concerning as profit is valued highest in the motel-type tourism business proposed
out of necessity for the business to survive and thrive.”

“The business of Trae Resort will bring added pollution (traffic, noise, light) and strain on already strained resources, water usage from the lake to serve large-scale property of pool, grounds, septic, and customers, etc.).”

A virtual public meeting was held in June outlining details of the proposed resort where members of the public had the opportunity to comment on the proposal, see background story here:

Neighbours voice concerns about proposed eco-resort on CR7 ‘tourist corridor’

All planning documentation, including and reports, relating to the proposed Trae Resort application can be found on the County’s website

Filed Under: Local News

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  1. Chuck says:

    The NM Ward Councilor was attempting to place conditions to lessen the impact upon neighbours. That opportunity may be lost if this application is taken to tribunal.

  2. ayar says:

    I can understand and sympathise with the emotions of neighbours running high when a resort is planned next to them but the reality is that whether Council votes in favour of or against the proposal the strong probability is that it would go ahead. County Road 7, where I live, is designated as a Tourist Corridor and the property on which the resort would be built is partly Shore Land. Both have guidelines on what developments can take place on them as outlined in Appendices C.3 and C.4 of the Official Plan. Planning staff have recommended that the development go ahead and the development itself meets the various criteria of County planning and zoning requirements. Unfortunately this means that if it is turned down by Council and the developer goes to the Ontario Land Tribunal the very strong probability is that the decision would be reversed by the OLT and the ORIGINAL application, without any of the agreed improvements, would be the go-ahead proposal. That is just a fact of life in Ontario.

    Would it not be better to come up with additional changes that would meet many of the opponents’ wishes and incorporate them into a revised application? Some of these could be:
    1. No daily visitors
    2. Move the access road into the centre of the property
    3. Make the floating dock smaller and moved away from the originally proposed location
    4. Limit the number of weddings
    Other items could be added that could make it more acceptable to neighbours, recognizing that the alternative is the original development without the mitigating changes. By deferring any decision for a month or so Council provides the opportunity for planning staff to discuss changes with the developer that would then form part of a revised proposal to be brought to Council.

  3. Liz says:

    Not a surprising outcome at last night’s meeting. What was surprising, yet again, was the support given by the ward’s councillor.
    Harrison referenced his fond memories of “farm families” having seasonal cottages. TRAE is not a family farm business. There are no long standing ties to the community and no farm family living on site.
    The only community connection is that this developer, Alan Hirschfield, sold another one of his developments, “Fields of Wellington” to Kaitlin.
    This isn’t about “farm families”, or community, as Dave was trying to sell us at last night’s meeting.
    This is about a business. IF community mattered, the NM Councillor would have supported those that objected to this at the Nov. 22 meeting.

  4. Painterman says:

    A quote from Dave Harrison ” I think its a viable enterprise and I think its the type of development low density that I’d like in my ward” And there lies the problem… IT IS NOT YOUR WARD…its the peoples ward, maybe talk to the people who live in the ward. Perhaps a town meeting in your ward would be a good idea.

  5. Dee says:

    Bruce McMinn – Interesting that in their re-iteration of resident’s concerns, nothing was mentioned by either Hirsch or Harrison about the objection to 4 seasons tourism use. Would approval of that open the floodgates for other applications to come forward from existing resorts – virtually making some of them residential developments and not tourism?

    Last night’s meeting showed what a turnout of a lot of residents does to make council pause and dig deeper.

    The official plan’s vision speaks to ensuring quality of life for its residents throughout the document. Seems to be something that is overlooked in the race to increase tourism.

  6. Bruce McMinn says:

    @ Michelle: 1) No, the subject lands are NOT designated “tourist”. Rather, the 2021 OP designates them Shore Land and Environmental Protection; and 2) my wife and at least five of her neighbours along Bayside who run viable farms would take issue with your comment that “the land is worthless for any agriculture venture”; and 3) the ward councillor’s inexplicable support for this proposal in no manner represents good land use planning.

  7. Liz says:

    Thank you for your coverage of this meeting.
    It was very apparent that residents were/are not in favour of such a development by the number of deputations and letters of objection to council. Why the councillor of this ward voted in favour when residents clearly were NOT in favour is a good question to ask.

  8. Michelle says:

    I expect this development will proceed as it goes to council for approval at its next meeting. It is a tourist designated area and the land is worthless for any agriculture venture. The ward councilor is in support.

  9. Fred says:

    I don’t believe Council heard the message loud and clear. The vote was 7 opposed and 6 in favour.

  10. SS says:

    Agreed, Victoria.

    Councils are elected to represent and advocate for the concerns of residents and taxpayers.

    But they must be held accountable to stay true to that mandate.

    And it’s residents and taxpayers that must do that.

    Failing that, outside interests will push in and steer their own agendas, regardless of the impact to residents and taxpayers. That’s a thing, everywhere, not just in the County.

    Very good article that illustrates the types of stories that were told to Council. Looks like Council heard the messages loud and clear and acted in the interests of the residents and taxpayers – precisely what they are meant to do. Well done.

  11. Victoria Taylor says:

    What a great story of community passion that adds to the County’s growing number of case study precedents of neighbours taking a leadership role to argue (and win) for a low development future. The land and waters of PEC have reached capacity and our natural and built infrastructure needs time to recharge.

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