As the new Council starts its work, two long anticipated decisions on important developments in the South Frontenac, Johnson’s Point and the Hartington Subdivision, were released.
The Johnson’s Point subdivision is a 15-house development next to a provincially significant wetland (PSW) on Loughborough Lake. It was approved two years ago with a requirement that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests (MNRF) undertake an assessment of species-at-risk on the point and make orders to protect them, a process called granting a benefit permit.
A general summary of the benefit permit orders was released to the public last month. Despite a broad community interest in a healthy environment and a strong local interest in this development the detailed permit is only released to the developer. This raises questions on how the implementation of the benefit provisions is to be monitored and how they are to be incorporated into the Condominium agreement.
The benefit permit summary suggests that one of these conditions may weaken provisions protecting the shoreline that were already agreed to by the Developer, the Township, the County and the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). This concern may just be an artifact of the general nature of the summary information and is being investigated. The rest of the conditions continue a long tradition of the MNRF’s Benefit Permit system providing, at best, marginal protection for the environment and species-at-risk.
One early sign that there might not be adequate protection for the area’s environment was when the developer’s environmental assessment did not identify any species-at-risk on the point. Subsequent reports found Grey Rat snakes and Blanding’s Turtles. Surveys commissioned by local residents also identified Myotis Bats and Whippoorwills.
A second red flag was when the OMB did not give adequate attention to the resident’s concerns, a fact identified in the 2019 Ontario’s Environmental Commissioners report (page 55).
The report also identified shortcomings in the ‘no negative impacts’ restriction on developments close to Provincially Significant Wetlands:
“For example, a subdivision that is built adjacent to a wetland may not cause immediate negative impacts, but eventually, the cumulative impacts from this expansion, such as road salting, fertilizer runoff, leaking fuels, wildlife predation from domestic cats and recreation overuse (e.g., from off road vehicles and mountain bikes), can severely degrade wetland functions”. (page 25)
Shortly after this report was released the provincial government introduced legislation to eliminate the office of the Environmental Commissioner.
The take home message is that legislated protections for the environment, while occasionally helpful, are weak. It is also important to note that, while far from perfect, there were important gains made in the conditions of approval for the Johnson’s Point condominium, protections made because of local pressure. It is now up to the MNRF, the County and the Township to enforce these.
The Hartington Subdivision
After waiting for the better part of two years the OMB supported the Hartington subdivision, a controversial proposal to develop 13 housing units off of Boyce Road near the K+P trail.
The decision came down to a couple of points. First the development was in Hartington which is identified as an area for growth in South Frontenac’s Official Plan. Second, it was ruled that the controls in the Conditions of Approval were sufficient to protect the community’s ground water and control storm water run-off.
The take home messages from this decision include, be careful what you put in your official plan. If we don’t want development in certain areas, this needs to be said. The Official Plan should identify where and what kind of development we want in our Township. Second, South Frontenac has many areas of questionable water quality and quantity and there is nothing in the Official plan to address these concerns. Third, the importance of enforcement is again highlighted.
Council needs to make a decision by January 22, 2019, on whether to allow retail cannabis stores in South Frontenac.
Please comment: Do you think that Cannabis retail stores should be allowed in the Township?
The Township’s 2019 draft budget will be released on January 15 and the public is welcome to comment on January 22 though deputation to full Council, or directly to your Councillors.
New Official Plan?
It is likely that sufficient funds will be included in this year’s budget to start a full community-based review of the Official Plan. This is long over due: the last one was done in 2000. The discussions around Johnson’ Point, the 30-meter lake protection bylaw, and the Hartington subdivision indicate that our current Official Plan may not reflect the current views of what want in our Township.
Merry Christmas to all my Christian friends, happy Hanukkah to all my Jewish friends and happy holidays with our family and friends to all of us.