The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is considering disposing of Centre Lake Crown land for development, but Highlands East council has professed the need for strong public consultation.
Staff brought forward a Nov. 12 letter from the MNRF at a special meeting Dec. 15. The letter states the ministry will move forward with an amendment to the 200-foot Crown reserve along the lake’s shoreline, which will require a public process. Two developers have proposed projects within the space on either side of the lake – including a multimillion-dollar condominium initiative.
“We want to ensure full consideration of potential impacts or benefits to your municipality and would appreciate hearing your perspective on this matter,” MNRF district manager, Suzy Shalla, said.
But councillors expressed several concerns with the process to come.
Deputy mayor Cec Ryall said he does not have an issue with educating citizens about what is happening, but he does not want to get overly involved with the approval.
“Whether or not someone does, or does not, end up acquiring a piece of property, that has nothing to do with us,” Ryall said. “I don’t want to get deep into the weeds.”
Planner Chris Jones said he wants to ensure anyone with concerns can voice them at this stage in the process, rather than the muncipality’s Planning Act approvals should developments go ahead.
“If we fill up the room with people wondering why the Crown transferred the land – a year, or 18 months after that actually happened – it could appear that we’re the ones holding the bag,” Jones said.
In her message, Shalla said the ministry will consider Indigenous, municipal and stakeholder interests.
“Minimum public consultation requirements for a minor amendment include direct notification to local stakeholders,” Shalla said.
Shalla also said Highlands East recognizes the economic benefits of development there. Council passed a resolution to that effect in December 2019 at the behest of one of the projects, Granite Shores Condominium Development, to help the developer’s application for the land.
Coun. Suzanne Partridge said the municipality needs to ensure the province has a very robust consultation.
“I know there have been a lot of grumblings going around,” Partridge said. “I would really like to see the public informed that the MNRF is doing this.”
Council voted to authorize the CAO and planner to contact the ministry to discuss its letter and the consultation process.