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Requests for First Nations’ consultations delays Quinte’s Isle planning meeting

By Sharon Harrison
An expected lengthy planning meeting on the expansion at Quinte Isle Campark – with nearly 30 members of the public waiting to comment – was cut short by a sudden turn of events.

The meeting, held online, was to hear comments on the proposed expansion of the park in Athol, but was adjourned just 40 minutes after it started. Some 13 deputations and 14 comments were scheduled from members of the public on the proposed expansion, that if approved, would include an Official Plan and zoning bylaw amendments.

All is now on hold for about two months as last-minute and continuing consultation requests from First Nations move forward.

The applications filed by the Ward family, owners of Quinte’s Isle Campark Inc. who operate under Fourward Holdings Inc. are for development of 337 park model trailers at Pebble Beach East, functioning as an extension to the existing park which consists of more than 600 serviced camp sites.

“This application has had a long history and has provoked significant public interest,” said Prince Edward County Mayor, Steve Ferguson.

Just five minutes into the meeting, clerk Catalina Blumberg requested a 10-minute recess to consult with the mayor. Following the unexpected break, Ferguson noted municipal planner, Matt Coffey wanted to provide comment about the evening’s proceedings.

Coffey noted in a quick overview that as part of the process normally done for planning applications, particularly those that are large and controversial, the applications are circulated to First Nations.

“In this particular case on the agenda tonight, I can advise that we notified three First Nations communities,” said Coffey. He noted that while no response was received from two of the three who were contacted, communications with the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte had been on-going.

“Regarding Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, we have had conversations with staff throughout the year in 2020 on this particular application,” Coffey said. “However, early today we got a letter from MBQ indicating that further consultation is still required.”

Coffey noted that a letter was also received from another First Nation indicating that they would like to be consulted on the file as well.

“Based on these two letters, staff are of the opinion that we should defer these applications for the purpose of allowing staff the opportunity to meet with these two groups and see if we can resolve any concerns that they have,” he said.

Coffey anticipated the process would take two months.

CAO Marcia Wallace confirmed she had received correspondence from the lawyer representing the proponent asking to have that vote at the top of the meeting and should council wish to support a deferral, this meeting would then be adjourned, arguing that the matter of hearing from the public and the proponent twice would not be the right course of action.

“I would say a lot of people have put a lot of time into these deputations and so while that is certainly the advice of the proponent, and I understand their perspective, that is the decision of council,” confirmed Wallace.

Wallace suggested taking a minute to discuss how to proceed, noting two choices – to either vote on the motion to defer that the planner is recommending now, or wait, listen for the public, do the deputations and comments from the public and vote on that motion.

“There is a procedural choice,” she said.

Mayor Ferguson speaking to the people who prepared comments and deputations, noted “There are two schools of thought here and I understand them both,” he said, adding he would support continuing with the deputations and the comments from the audience.

Councillor Phil St-Jean asked if the deputations were heard tonight, would there be a round two where all the same deputations come back at the next meeting.

Clerk Catalina Blumenberg confirmed if deputations are brought forward again, they must be different.

“If we hear all the deputations tonight, according to procedural bylaw, if they were to come back when you are coming for a decision, they have to be different and speak to something different to what they have already spoken to tonight,” stated Blumenberg.

“We should proceed with the deputations out of respect for everybody here,” said councillor St-Jean.

Councillor Kate MacNaughton suggested giving each individual a choice to whether they speak tonight or not.

“I am struggling to know how we define new information or different deputations,” MacNaughton said, noting she was looking for clarity.

She said she is in agreement with St-Jean providing people are given a choice.

Councillor Janice Maynard stated that depending on the outcome of the conversations with the First Nations, the deputations may change.

“I would suggest that if we are now going to have a two-month break, my preference would be to hear all the deputations. That will allow any deputants to make change to their comments and hear them when it’s all relevant and before a decision,” said Maynard.

Councillor Phil Prinzen said he would like to see all the deputations deferred for a number of reasons.

“I would agree with deferral at this time because the staff recommendation may change pursuant to the further consultation that we are going to undertake,” added councillor Ernie Margetson. “Until we know what the results of what the consultation is, then it will put relevance to any comments or deputations we do receive, so I support the deferral at this time but I do recognize the people and the effort.”

Stewart Bailey said he would prefer to go to a deferral.

“I am sure the material will be good in two months, if not better than it is now,” Bailey said.

Councillor Bill Roberts agreed to the deferral in terms of efficiency and effectiveness.

Councillor Jamie Forrester also supported the deferral, along with councillor Mike Harper.

A motion to defer all public deputations and comments to a future special council meeting passed with a count of 11 hands, and the meeting was adjourned.

Mayor Ferguson apologized to the members of the public who had prepared comments and deputations.

“Obviously this was last-minute information and you can tell it took me and members of council by surprise,” he said.

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  1. SM says:

    Two first nation communities located at Rice Lake were notified along with the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte. The 4th first nation that recently expressed its interest is located in Quebec. The traditional territory of that first nation encompassed pretty well all of Southern Ontario including the County. I would not fault the ‘developer’ or the County. What appeared to be reasonable steps were taken in a timely fashion and consultation took place. Clearly there was no indication until the eleventh hour that more consultation was being requested.

  2. Mike Rodgers says:

    I hope council will realize that this is not wanted by the local tax payers. We have enough summer traffic and what little this offers the county as far as revenue will not even come close to the damage it will cause to our way of life. We have lost our neighbor hoods, our way of life, affordable housing and the list goes on. Tourism has not brought high paying jobs, just minimum wage seasonal jobs. Council say no to further development such as this.

  3. Ted Norris says:

    Unfortunately this last minute consultation / engagement with First Nations is an all too familiar refrain. There are very clear & established protocols for bringing in the Indigenous perspective early on in the process. Tapping the brakes to ensure Indigenous voices are heard is entirely the right course of action.

    The article quotes Matt Coffey re: 3 FN communities having been notified but does not identify them other than the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte.
    Regardless, this pause also illustrates the importance of establishing meaningful relations with Indigenous peoples in the County, particularly in this era of Reconciliation. This can take time but the investment is worthwhile for all concerned.

  4. Chuck says:

    Why such a late request from First Nations. What would their interest be in the Countys south shore?

  5. Don Montgomery says:

    Maybe local first nations’ objections will help the county councillors and its citizens follow the wishes and objectives of our Official Plan, as opposed to amend it and deviate from the plan, OUR plan?

    Too much development already? Most everyone I hear talk about this topic agrees . . . yes, there is! We do not need or want Quinte’s Isle trailers expanded by over 50 %, and definitely not on / adjacent to the shore of Soup Harbour.

  6. County Proud says:

    While this letter may have arrived shortly before the start of the meeting, should First Nations’ consultation not have been on-going from the start of this proposal – not just during the later part of 2020? This proposal has been before Council since 2018 and started several years prior to that. I’m left to wonder how several planning experts could “sign off” on the Staff Recommendation without noticing this lack of consultation (among other errors).

    Even as a lay-person, I noticed in the document posted for the Cultural Heritage Impact Assessment by the proponents’ consultants dated Jan 30, 2019, they openly admit – “***Disclaimer: Cultural heritage landscapes should evaluate traditional practices of First Nations which is part of the Standards and Guidelines of Historic Places Section 4.1.2. It recommends that the First Nations be consulted when reviewing the final designs of the development to determine impact on these groups.” Should that not have served as a red flag for someone in the Planning department. Noting also that this report was tabled almost a full year after the initial request for rezoning came forward.

    This “oversight” is a tell-tale sign of how this whole proposal has been handled from the outset.

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