By Darren Lum
The virtual open house for the proposed disposition of the crown reserve abutting Centre Lake for shoreline subdivisions and cottage lot development last week on April 27 was met with opposition from various stakeholders in the Highlands East area.
Granite Shores, the developers, are seeking a Crown Land Use Policy Amendment to the 200-foot of crown reserve, which is required to “create a new land use area, change the boundary of a land use area, or change existing area-specific land use policy.” They approached the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry about purchasing the land so they can create an extension to property they own on Centre Lake, which they want to include with a proposed development.
“The 200-foot crown shoreline reserve is governed by the policies of Multiple Resource Engagement Area G340, which do no permit dispositions for cottaging,” as outlined by the MNRF.
The Granite Shores development will include 28 freehold seasonal cottage lots, one tourist commercial resort and wellness block, including a two-storey resort building with 60 suites and one single-storey spa/wellness centre, one space block, one highway commercial block, and a public hiking trail. It will proceed with or without the disposition since Granite Shores owns the land east, adjacent to the crown reserve abutting Centre Lake.
Highlands East planner Chris Jones said the public meeting was held as part of the process under the Crown Land Use Policy Atlas, or CLUPA, which is according to the MNRF a “repository and authoritative source of area-specific crown land use direction.”
“In order for the ministry to consider that request, that request needs to be aligned with or permitted under the Crown Land Use Policy Atlas and the crown land policy does not allow conveyances of crown land in whole or part in our particular area of Haliburton. This aspect, or this meeting really relates to the ministry initiative to consult, seek out public comments and opinions with respect to an amendment process to the crown land use policy atlas,” he said.
Jones referred to the 200-foot reserve, or 60 metre reserve as a “unique circumstance” that dates back to the 1950s in conjunction with mining activities and damming related to the lake.
He adds the “66-foot [municipal] shore road allowance, or original shore road allowance” as “something that has been set aside virtually on all near north lakes. It was a requirement at the time of original surveys, original patents to identify or take back a 66-foot reserve as a public road allowance,” he said.
The municipality has the authority to dispose or transfer the reserve, but there hasn’t been a survey prepared. He points out that this plan does not include any intention to close off public access.
Mike Thomas of the Paudash Lake Conservation Association, which represents the cottage members of Paudash Lake, said the organization was established because of the mining activity in 1973 and has historically always worked to protect the lake.
“We were formed because of the mining activity going on in the area. It’s interesting to note that this 200-foot allowance that happened in the 1950s showed a lot of foresight on behalf of then Department of Lands and Forests to protect the quality of the lake from mining activities,” he said. “Today, our interest here is because Centre Lake empties through Deer Creek into the part of Paudash Lake called Inlet Bay and we have been involved in the decommissioning of the mines around the area for a number of years.”
Other organizations such as the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust and the Hiawatha First Nations provided comments pertaining to offering assistance for input related to the process. The Land Trust offered knowledge and expertise on habitat conservation, as part of the potential Crown land sale and development.
Andrew Martin of Cardiff-based Camp Can-Aqua challenged council to represent the community that voted for them to protect Centre Lake.
“It’s very easy to say, oh, well, we had to make this decision to approve it, or it’s the crown decision. It’s out of our hands. We all probably know that’s not the case,” he said. “I think for our municipality to have a hard stance on what sort of development we want to see in our community, I think that takes precedence over any debate or decision that the crown might have. So, I think our input, or your opinion is actually more weighted than I feel like people [are] letting it up to be. It’s easy to say this is just a stage in the process and things like that.”
Martin said when it comes to development, it’s easy to promote the “best assets,” whether that’s economic growth or tourism.
He said drawing people from the city with money for projects like this isn’t the most beneficial to our community.
“What this community needs. What this municipality actually needs is year-round residents because year-round residents creates infrastructure, creates sustainable employment. Sustainable employment brings people that want to live here and so I think the thing year-round residents want, and what I know through my community here, locally in Cardiff and my camp specifically, is that Centre Lake is heavily used by our community locally and it’s an asset we really love and support.”
He said he hopes council will stand up for the community.
“I can’t even fathom what economic benefit this development can give that is so significant that we can give up something so unique,” Martin said.
Area residents such as Dale Watson, who is part of a family that has been leasing property on Centre Lake for more than 60 years, didn’t believe the lake could sustain the growth expected with the proposal.
From his reading of the website belonging to the developer, Granite Shores, is going ahead with or without the crown reserve.
“However the removal of the acquisition of the crown reserve will allow the lake lots to actually abut the lake rather than be separated from the shoreline by the 60 metre reserve,” he said.
He didn’t see what reason there would be to support their application to release the crown land.
“Crown land is the people’s land and once it’s gone it’s gone forever. Centre Lake is a beautiful, untouched lake that offers itself to the local public. Particularly during this uncertain time it’s comforting to know that that the people still have a free place to get away from the crowds and the stress,” he said.
Julia Redfern, planner with the IBI group, representing the developer, Granite Shores, said there are supporting studies pertaining to the proposed development being “viable from a servicing, economic, storm water management, archaeological, transportation, and environmental perspective.”
The findings can be reviewed at the public engagement platform: //letstalkcentrelake.ca/granite-shores.
From a submission before the meeting, it stated that this proposed development “has been reviewed against applicable provincial and local planning policy framework, finding that it is consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement, 2020 and in conformity with the County of Haliburton Official Plan and Municipality of Highlands East Official Plan.”
It continues that new commercial tourism services and/or facilities are permitted on Crown land.
Jones, the township planner, concluded the public meeting by saying he appreciated the input by the public and was encouraged by the interest and input, including those that could not appear virtually, but also submitted written submissions for council’s information.
“It is a unique situation. Despite the 70 odd lakes that we have in the municipality of Highlands East this one is unique by virtue of that 200-foot reserve, so in part that is why the municipality is taking this initiative and trying to work with the ministry to inform the decision making surrounding this process, but that’s my summary at this point,” he said.