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Proposed tourist resort in North Marysburgh gains re-zoning approval


By Sharon Harrison
A re-zoning application for development of a three- (or maybe four) season tourist resort on County Road 7, overlooking Adolphus Reach gained approval at Wednesday evening’s lengthy five-hour council meeting, by a vote of 7-5.

The outcome came despite extensive neighbour commentary – all expressing opposition to the proposed re-zoning, as well noting an on-line petition against the proposed development, garnering 850 signatures.

In a recorded vote, councillors Roberts, St-Jean, Harrison, Grosso, Hirsch, Braney and Nieman voted in favour of the re-zoning proceeding. Mayor Steve Ferguson didn’t vote due to a disclosed pecuniary interest, and councillor Branderhorst wasn’t present.

The proposed development is expected to include a hotel, swimming pool and pool house, event venue, assembly hall, spa and café, as well as decking and docking facilities. Accommodations are to include 19 two- to three-bedroom cabins and 12 studio cabins, for a total of 54 beds.

At the re-scheduled council meeting Wednesday (re-scheduled from Dec. 9, and again from Jan. 9 due to inclement weather), staff presented a new report recommending the re-zoning of a 33-acre parcel of land, located at 2353 County Road 7 in North Marysburgh, from rural, to special tourist commercial, to accommodate the proposed Trae Resort.

More than four hours into the council meeting, an attempt to defer the item to a later council meeting, due to the late hour and long agenda, was voted down by council.

Proposed also within the application is a portion of the land, currently zoned Environmental Protection (EP,) to be re-zoned to Special Environmental Protection (EP-16) to permit recreational uses.

Council heard five deputations from members of the public (all close neighbours to the proposed project) Wednesday night, along with three audience comments, all of them against the project proceeding.

Incessant noise and light pollution, increased vehicular traffic volumes, environmental concerns, and the loss of peace and tranquility in a rural environment were just some of the concerns close neighbours expressed.

Andie and Derek McGeachie, who are a direct neighbour to the west of the proposed resort, spoke to a quiet and respectful neighbourhood, one many nearby moved to intentionally to seek a peaceful quality of life, where they also noted an environmentally-sensitive area and forested community.

“It’s too dramatic a change in zoning from what the land is currently zoned for and how the entire neighbourhood is currently zoned,” noted the McGeachies. “Commercialization of one piece of property to become an all-inclusive resort amongst a neighbourhood of single family residences makes no sense.“

They also spoke to the limestone outcrop, describing it as “cliff-side waterfront”, one they fear visitors will automatically be attracted to, and one they describe as “dangerous and treacherous”.

“It is completely incongruous to have the biggest, noisiest all-inclusive resort in the County inside the quietest, sleepiest neighbourhood in the County that also happens to be on environmentally-sensitive land with turtle hatcheries, deer, turkey, etc.”

Derek McGeachie said it’s “very intrusive to the animals, and it’s very intrusive to the people who live there”, adding, “it feels like, as a resident, the rug has been pulled out from under me”.

Neighbour Bruce McMinn noted how any decision to proceed with the resort would be “precedent setting, leading to more resort/hotel/spa development in North Marysburgh and completely undermine the environmental integrity of our great community”.

David Fast, another neighbour, spoke to the council process and transparency, the natural core area (specifically the gaps in North Marysburgh) and safety concerns,

Fast noted an on-line petition to “stop the development of a resort in environmentally-sensitive lands” has garnered over 900 signatures to date, urging council to deny the re-zoning application.

He also spoke to a door-to-door petition (98 local signatures) that was undertaken, with “overwhelming opposition”. “We knocked on every door, and 96 per cent of the people we talked to signed up as opposed to this development.”

Fast drew attention to the water side of the property, specifically noting how high and steep the limestone cliff is, indicating liability concerns with 150 partying people. He also indicated how some areas are described as a “fire hazard”, noting the Official Plan’s designation of “constraint areas”.

Neighbour Renee Hessian noted the “quiet farming community where the neighbours are fairly close knit. It’s very rural, and we are going to be putting a big commercial venture into the middle of this”.

Douglas Smith, who owns property just over a kilometre to the east of the proposed resort also voiced opposition.

“We have rural residents who really have no choice but to oppose this…the proposed development presents a myriad of potential problems for them, such as traffic, noise pollution and light pollution.”

He said this is something local residents would not have anticipated when they built their lives where they live.

“I just see it as being completely unfair in an area that is rural and agricultural.”

Professor Daniel Wigdor indicated how his family’s home sits on 130 acres to the east of the proposed resort, where they maintain managed forests, including the eastern end of an untouched old-growth forest, which extends along the escarpment and into the Trae lands.

“We also have a farm field where we partner with Trent University to study soil regeneration methods for sustainable farming,” outlined Wigdor. “And perhaps most relevant, our property contains provincially-significant shorelands, which receives and filters all of the water coming down the escarpment on which Trae sits.”

He said, the developer “does not understand this community: our lands are connected by watersheds, by old-growth forests, and by wildlife migration paths”.

“The resort fundamentally changes this water community… the resort sits on what the Official Plan calls a “fire hazard” which shares a forest with us, and our insurance company rates our land as ‘unserviced by fire and rescue’”, Wigdor explained.

“The scale of the resort is devastating… opening a mega resort on lands designated as a high fire hazard in the middle of a small community with environmentally-protected shorelands and forests, populated by families and farmers is not compatible with the surrounding context.”

North Marysburgh ward councillor David Harrison said, “If I was a farmer, this is the last piece of land in Prince Edward County I’d be interested in”.

“This resort without any infrastructure having to be added – it looks reasonably low density to me – will bring in $100,000-plus per year without having to spend any money on infrastructure, and would also help bolster our tourism master plan,” said Harrison.

Developer Alan Hirschfield began by indicating how he would “rather not debate items raised by the previous delegation… council knows better the facts on the ground, there have been undertakings about fire control, water and so forth, which have been dealt with by the technical professionals”.

Describing the project as a “modest and pleasant step forward for the County, development, and tax base, especially in light of serious issues caused by short-term accommodations, replacing sorely needed residences”.

He noted 29 STAs existing in the vicinity of the proposed development.

“We wanted to do a small resort in the County, and we have come up with a design that is a good balance of scale and feel, and a balance between nature and build form.”

He noted all the proposed buildings together only total 28,000 square feet, which he described as a “really small set of buildings”.

Hirschfield went on to say the County planning department told him if this project is not approved, “they will have difficulty approving any waterfront, commercial tourist site in the County”.

“I believe it is fair and reasonable for a developer in the County, who follows the Official Plan objectives, to craft as modest and responsive a development proposal as is economically viable, to have that proposal approved.”

Councillor John Hirsch said “Whether the neighbours like it or not, our Official Plan sanctions this, and this would be a sure loss for us at the OLT (Ontario Land Tribunal) if we didn’t approve it.”

The decision for staff to bring forward a new report stemmed from the Nov. 22 planning and development meeting, which saw council deny the application in a 7-6 vote after numerous neighbour concerns were voiced to council on the impact the development would have on the primarily residential neighbourhood.

At the Nov. 28 council meeting, council chose not to ratify the planning denial, instead referring the item back to staff again.

Background stories can be found here:

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

In his revised report to council, Matthew Coffey, Co-ordinator Approvals, noted the developer has revised the concept plan by relocating elements of the proposed resort, such as noise, lighting, traffic, site capacity, day usage, land use compatibility, environmental impacts, among them, as well as addressing issues previously raised, such as the legal status of existing structures.

“The purpose of relocating certain elements is to mitigate any potential impacts as a result of the development,” noted Coffey’s report. “These provisions include added setbacks for entrances and buildings in relation to the front lot line.”

The revised plan also includes provisions intended to guide development adjacent to the shoreline by limiting the extent of development along the shoreline and establishing a cap on the developable area.

The developer has now also defined “day use” and will limit the number of weddings permitted (to 10 per year), with a limit of 20 visitors per day, subject to the site not exceeding a capacity of 150.

Filed Under: Local News

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  1. SM says:

    Billy here is your answer: “Councillor John Hirsch said “Whether the neighbours like it or not, our Official Plan sanctions this, and this would be a sure loss for us at the OLT (Ontario Land Tribunal) if we didn’t approve it.””
    Those opposed could take this to the OLT but given Mr. Hirsch’s statement it is unlikely they would succeed.

  2. Billy Cache says:

    It would be good to know the reasons why the 7 members voted for this, in spite of so much objection to the project by residents in the area. Some of those County folk probably have lived there longer than some on the council, but that doesn’t matter, damn the County, this project will go forward.

  3. Painterman says:

    And just who is checking that they do not exceed 10 weddings a year, with a limit to 20 visitors a day and not to exceed 150 people. I will tell you who….nobody. And what penalties are in place if they do. All smoke and mirrors. When you swim with sharks you are going to get bit.

  4. Robert says:

    Disney World is a mega resort.

  5. Dan says:

    This is why we need to make space travel cheaper. People will visit space instead of the county. Just my 2C.

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