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Number of STAs over full-time residents leads to end of popular Friends of East Lake group

In 2012, PEC Mayor Peter Mertens, Prince Edward Hastings MPP Todd Smith and Sandie Sidsworth, member of the Ontario Trillium Foundation grant review team with Friends of East Lake Barbara Wyatt, Carolyn Barton and Linda Cole.

The executive of the grass-roots environmental group Friends of East Lake (FOEL), will dissolve the not-for-profit corporation formed in 2006 at the end of this year.

Linda Cole, president, Carolyn Barton, vice-president, and Barbara Wyatt, secretary/treasurer, noted in a press release that most of the executive has been in place since 2006, and new blood was sought for the current directors to retire.

“One attempt was derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and appeals to supporters did not generate enough interest to get the required number of people to take over.”

In their letter to supporters announcing the dissolution, FOEL executives said they believed that largely contributing to the lack of interest is that Athol township and East Lake now have the highest concentration of short-term accommodations in the County. As of Dec. 22, Airbnb lists 123 stays in East Lake, plus STAs listed on other sites.

“This escalation in STAs was unforeseen by everyone, including the municipality, and what to do about it is an ongoing discussion. One unfortunate outcome is the negative effect on community groups such as FOEL.

“The change in demographics around East Lake, from owner-occupied, full-time residences and single-family recreational properties to STAs, led to a dwindling supply of volunteers.”

FOEL formed in 2006 to fight an application to council for a rezoning of a small lakeside lot just outside Cherry Valley from rural to tourist commercial, to build a year-round cottage resort. The lot was surrounded on all sides by residential homes and owner-occupied cottages.

“There was a considerable amount of support from council for arguments from FOEL, and the application was initially denied. However, when the developer threatened to take the case to the Ontario Municipal Board, that decision was reversed.”

At the time, the release states, FOEL was small, mainly consisting of neighbours of that development and had no resources to fight the OMB.

“However, soon after, the appearance of the US developer Cottage Advisors, its purchase of the 80-acre driving range site on the south side of East Lake and its application to council for rezoning for a 237 cottage resort development, gained the group a good deal of prominence and huge support for its opposition to the resort density.

“At the council meeting, held at the arena due to the interest, a petition of more than 700 signatures was presented, the largest ever in the County. Despite this, council approved the application. FOEL, with increasing financial support from the community, appealed the rezoning at the OMB. This was met with an unexpected Motion to Dismiss from Cottage Advisors that the appeal was frivolous and without merit. FOEL won the motion, but this had left it without sufficient funds to proceed, and the development went ahead. Legislation has since been enacted to curb SLAPPs such as this (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation).”

FOEL had numerous successes over the years. A settlement of $40K from Cottage Advisors was secured and earmarked to support local parkland. A sell-out fundraiser featuring Margaret Atwood was held at the Regent Theatre.

Its main achievement, however, was to obtain grants amounting to $90K from the Ontario Trillium Foundation and other funding agencies to produce the East Lake Stewardship Plan, completed in 2015, in collaboration with French Planning Services, Quinte Conservation and PEC Planning Staff.

“The Plan was officially received by the municipality and deemed to be a valuable tool for the County, intended to be used in future planning decisions for East Lake, and to provide a baseline for monitoring the health of the Lake for generations to come. A very proud and positive legacy.”

Filed Under: Local News

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  1. Dee says:

    Yes the new official plan does support agriculture sustainability through agriculture related enterprises, but also protects farmland. related enterprises -farm sales of farm grown product – beef, lamb, pork, market gardens – In an effort to encourage sustainability added value business is being encouraged Agrotourism – (been done for decades along shore of EL by local farmers) New businesses selling through doors and sheds govt inspected added value products such as hot sauce, salad dressings jams chutneys pickcles other canned goods, the details in the OP on land use and related restrictions etc give some protection – they must be agriculture related enterprises. Of course there will be those who will try to push the evelope and we will have to keep our eyes open BUT at least a business being run off the farm ensures that there is a body in the house who is living and working in the community and farms are not beeing sold out (because they cannot make a living) to dreamers of “raking in the STA: money.

  2. Linda Cole says:

    It’s inevitable that an unforeseen situation will present itself and a group like FOEL will be needed again. Sooner than later. The new OP allows ‘agriculture related enterprises‘ to be developed on prime ag which opens the door to a myriad of consumer-based enterprises which leads to urbanization of East Lake.

  3. Dee says:

    A big thank you to all the members of the board of Friends of East Lake. You stood up and were counted…on behalf of the residents of PEC. This was not the first, nor the last time that Council has flipped on a decision but Friends of East Lake held fast.

    It is unfortunate that our community has and is becoming more “hollow” and does not have the full time residents to be members of the community, with the result of this fact leading to the demise of a much needed and extremely benficial organization.

    It will serve us all well if we keep an eye on health and future of East Lake, because without your dedcated watchful eye who knows how long the institutional memory of the municipality will be…out of sight out of mind!

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