Op-ed: Consultants question Grass Lake proposal

Haliburton resident group, Friends of Grass Lake (FGL) has been working with a full service planning firm, D.M. Wills Associates Limited (Wills) out of Peterborough. On behalf of FGL, Wills submitted their letter of opposition to Dysart et al planners on Mar. 16, 2022.
The prospect of a large condo development of 88 condos and commercial activities adjacent to an untouched wetland rich in flora and fauna, has deeply alarmed the environmentally aware residents of Grass Lake and the wider community.
FGL formed in August 2021, and in short order, the group garnered remarkable and still growing community support for their common cause. Residents quickly made their opposition known through letters to the Council of Dysart et al, letters to editors of the local papers, erecting roadside signs, and launching a Facebook site among other activities.
“The remarkable level of support made it possible for the group to engage the professional representation of a planning firm,” said Catherine Swift, resident and member of Friends of Grass Lake.
“Planners with the firm say we have very good reasons to be opposed to this development and they’ve itemized a laundry list of major deficiencies,” says Carolyn Langdon, long-time resident and member of the Friends of Grass Lake.

“In the expert opinion of our planning firm, the applications before the municipality are ‘premature and incomplete’ as they do not provide the necessary plans and studies to determine if the proposed condo and commercial development is appropriate and can be accommodated on the site.” (See Mayor Andrea Roberts’ response on the same page)
“Harburn Holdings wants to create a new commercial lot on the corner of [County Road] 21 and Peninsula Road but our experts found that a new lot won’t meet the county’s policy of a minimum frontage of 150 metres,” said Swift. “As laypeople we wouldn’t have known this and that’s why it is so important for our resident group to bring in planning specialists.”

The appendix contains aerial photos that show that trees were removed from along the shoreline possibly or definitively in contravention of the tree removal bylaw. Aerial photos also show that the high water mark may have been significantly modified by the addition and removal of fill. If there has been a violation under either the Public Lands Act or the Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act, restoration may be required of the landowner to return the shoreline to its original condition. (Please refer to Appendix A in the Letter and to No. 2 and No. 8 in the Highlights and Comments document.)
FGL has alerted the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) about our serious concerns. This spring the MNRF and DFO will be conducting an investigation to assess the alterations made to the site over the years.
“I’ve been at this a long time and I feel buoyed by the groundswell of community support and the fact that the MNRF is willing to listen to ordinary residents to understand the situation within our township and the wetland,” said nearby resident Lynda Williams.

No. 2
Intensive and multi-unit development is to take place in the Village of Haliburton where a lot can be covered by a building. The Grass Lake Wetland property is outside the Village of Haliburton and according to Dysart’s own policy not appropriate for the development proposed. Furthermore the property is currently designated Environmental Protection (EP) and Rural which permits only one residence and no development on land zoned EP. Williams has been writing letters to authorities and documenting the slow but dramatic changes to the site since the property changed hands in 2003.

No. 8
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has been contacted by FGL and will be reviewing the alterations made to the site to determine if any fish or fish habitat have been negatively impacted, habitat identified as “critical” by Harburn Holdings own Environmental Impact Assessment Study. With this knowledge, Harburn Holdings still proceeded to include on its submitted site plan a dock to be built adjacent to this critical fish habitat.

Appendix A

  • Submitted by Carolyn Langdon of FGL