Harburn holdings Ltd. addresses criticism for its development

Harburn Holdings Ltd. is proposing residential and limited commercial development on its Peninsula Road property, on the west shore of Grass Lake. I am Harburn Holdings’ planner, and its agent for applications to amend the Dysart et al Official Plan and zoning bylaw and sever three lots. I’m responding to an April 26 op-ed Consultants question Grass Lake proposal by Carolyn Langdon of the Friends of Grass Lake, as well as an emailed response from Langdon which occupies almost all of a staff story Mayor Roberts addresses op-ed, Consultants questions Grass Lake proposal in the same issue.
Consulting firm D.M. Wills submitted a March 16, 2022 planning opinion on behalf of the Friends. Wills and I have different opinions on the merits of the proposal – Dysart Council will decide. But there are also many factual problems with the Wills letter. Readers, please review that letter and my April 20, 2022 response, both on the Dysart website (see Build and Invest/Planning and Land Use/Current Development Applications). Here, I can only answer very briefly these points in the op-ed:

  1. Wills says our new lot on the corner of County Road 21 and Peninsula Road won’t meet the county’s minimum frontage requirements. Not so, Wills misread the County Official Plan.
  2. Wills claims aerial photos show the high water mark has been altered, there was filling below the shoreline, and tree cutting contravened the county’s Shoreline Tree Preservation Bylaw. They don’t, none of these happened.
  3. The Friends asked the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources (MNDMNRF) and Forestry and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to investigate the Wills claims. On April 26, DFO contacted Harburn and visited the site the next day. DFO concluded they had no concerns. We have never heard from MNDMNRF.
  4. The Friends say the site is outside the village of Haliburton (the Wills letter is unclear and inconsistent). The site is inside the Haliburton village urban boundary and the village sewage service area.
  5. Wills and the Friends suggest we are proposing development in that part of the site designated Environmental Protection. Not true.
  6. The Friends criticize our having proposed a dock, because it would be in critical fish habitat. A pole dock designed and built using best practices can be compatible with fish habitat. However, we have now withdrawn the dock proposal – see my April 20, 2022 letter to residents, on the Dysart website.

Continuing on to the staff story, Langdon’s email complains about how Dysart has handled our applications. Dysart has followed Planning Act requirements, and over and above that, its normal approach to public involvement in the planning process which is well within the municipal mainstream. If Langdon wants to advocate changes to the Planning Act or Dysart’s practices, the current provincial and municipal election campaigns provide her that opportunity.
We provided residents with more information, much earlier, than if we’d left everything to Dysart. Instead of spoonfeeding residents, we ensured they had immediate access to all the detailed information we submitted to the municipality. Langdon seems to find this objectionable.
Langdon also contends the municipality didn’t answer various questions about our applications. I would have happily provided those answers. Some of them are in fact provided in letters from me on the Dysart website. But neither the Friends nor their consultants Wills ever contacted me, to ask questions or discuss concerns.
Finally, Langdon returns to tree cutting and site alteration by Harburn, and lack of regulation by the municipality. Yes, Harburn cut trees and altered the site above the shoreline, but not after 2011. The Shoreline Tree Preservation Bylaw took effect in 2012. Dysart doesn’t have a site alteration bylaw, but many other municipalities don’t either, not just two other “holdouts” as Langdon claims. MNDMNRF, not Dysart, regulates dredging and filling below the shoreline – which Harburn has never done.
Although Harburn and I have no choice but to reply to the Friends this way, and despite the Friends’ failure to dialogue with us, it’s never too late to take a different road. Our door remains wide open.

Submitted by Tony Usher, RPP, Anthony Usher Planning Consultant