Highlands East Council votes down disposition of 200’ Crown Reserve – Centre Lake

By Darren Lum

It wasn’t even close when the votes were cast 3-1 against supporting the approval of the Crown Land Use Policy Atlas Amendment 2020-004 on condition that any future disposition by the Ministry require municipal consideration and input with respect to options aimed at preserving the shoreline to the most reasonable extent possible, as well as public access to Centre Lake at the Highlands East Council Meeting on Tuesday, June 22 held live on YouTube.

Councillors Cam McKenzie, Suzanne Partridge and Ruth Strong voted against while deputy mayor Cec Ryall voted for and Mayor Dave Burton declined to vote.

This serves only as a recommendation by the municipality during the consultation period set by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry from May 27 to June 25, but the decision now rests with the ministry about whether there will be a Crown Land Use Policy Act (CLUPA) amendment to permit the disposition of the 200’ Crown Reserve on Centre Lake under the environmental assessment process, as part of an application by two developers, who have plans to build cottage lots on Centre Lake.

The municipality facilitated the opportunity for public input with a special meeting on April 27, which preceded the ministry’s consulting process period from May 27 to June 25. There were several delegations who presented their views about the application. During the consulting period the municipality has received close to 50 written submissions, which included supportive comments such as economic growth, job creation and being a model for sustainable development, and comments against such as concerns for the environment, impact on the holder of an existing Crown land use permit, loss of access and passive recreational opportunities, and included a few comments for compromise.

Before the township voted, members offered their perspectives.

“I know everybody is struggling with this particular thing and I understand there will be constituents that will be for and against all of this thing. My concern in this particular thing is more related to the ecology. The basic environment and everything that is going with it,” Ryall said. “My personal comment is if these people are crazy enough with this process, which looks to me like it’s going to cost more than a $1 and a half and is going to take a whole block of time. I have no problem with a registered vote and I will be voting in favour of it.”

On the other side, councillor McKenzie said he had received feedback from residents, who were by and far against. Councillor Partridge recognized Centre Lake for how it’s appreciated.

“It’s a unique and really valuable resource to our local residents. Both seasonal and permanent residents. It’s very well-used by kayakers and canoers and fisher people. I can’t support us supporting the sale of this land,” she said.
Town planner Chris Jones said the non-support for an amendment along with the ministry’s decision to not proceed with this amendment process that “it would preclude the disposition of the Crown reserve which in turn would not enable the closure of the shore road allowance. In this scenario, ownership for the water’s edge (in whole or in part) for a potential cottage development could not be achieved,” as per his report.

He noted that if there is a CLUPA amendment and disposition of the 200’ crown reserve, dating back to the 1950s that the current public access that includes the boat launch and the parking area, and the lands north of Centre Lake will continue.

Jones said the key thing with achieving disposition rests with the CLUPA amendment.

He confirmed Ryall’s understanding that even if the ministry allows the disposition of the 200’ that the municipality still controls the 66’ feet of shoreline within the reserve.

When asked by Ryall about timeline for a ministry decision, Jones deferred any estimate for how long this process will take with the ministry, which started with applications made more than a year ago by the developers,
“Unlike the planning act approvals we’re more familiar with that have sort of timelines – maximum decision making timelines. If somebody submits a completed application under the planning act depending on the type of application the act sets out sort of timelines that if they’re not met for decision it leverages the right for an appeal, but that’s not the case with this process with crown land disposition,” he said.