Minden Hills Council heard concerns about a wetland in front of four properties, whose owners came before the township Jan. 28 seeking rezoning.
Planner Ian Clendening said the ask was to remove the existing hazard land zoning, implemented by the former Lutterworth Township in 1992, to shoreline residential.
He told a public meeting that the planning department had a lot of public input, including from the Gull Lake Cottager’s Association.
“The predominant concern identified in those comments is the protection of the wetland and highlights the excellent work of Paul Heaven, who has worked with the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust to do extensive mapping,” Clendening told council. He said Heaven had identified a wetland in the flooded land area of the subject property.
However, Anthony Usher, representing the landowners, said they’ve interpreted the hazard land zoning as a long-standing planning error.
Further, in their opinion, Heaven’s mapping had not been recognized by the planning system as of yet.
“My clients now have these properties on the market,” Usher said. “The township has inadvertently put a red flag on these properties and on these properties alone. That red flag will be obvious to any buyer doing due diligence and checking the zoning bylaw. The hazard zoning may not actually make any difference but like a quarantine sign, it scares people off,” he said.
He concluded that, “The existing erroneous zoning harms my clients. Fixing the error will help my clients and it will not harm Gull Lake or its wetlands in any way.”
Mike Thorne, lake steward for Gull Lake, said he and his membership opposed the rezoning for a number of reasons.
He said the water body fronting the properties had been a shallow marsh supporting birds and aquatic species for at least the last 40 years. He said it was the only water body on Gull Lake that is naturally protected from motorized boat wakes, making it idea for loon nesting. He also spoke of ducks and turtles and fish.
Thorne said in his opinion, the designation was not a mistake but to protect the wetlands. He added he believes it’s an unevaluated wetland, which is an approved methodology by the Minden office of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and it is a valid designated unevaluated wetland.
Thorne said the issue was also about supporting lake health from development. He said there needed to be further studies before re-designation.
Mayor Brent Devolin said a significant report would come to a future council meeting before a decision is made. Murdoch Road access Although a staff report is pending regarding year-round signage and maintenance options, councillors voted Feb. 1 that the municipality will maintain an historic public access to Gull Lake at the end of Murdoch Road.
The site is used by people to put ice fishing huts on the lake in winter and then to remove them.
However, it had been in dispute since the location traditionally used was actually on private property.
In arguing access not be closed on township land, deputy mayor Lisa Schell said, “that access to Gull Lake has been there for decades.”
However, councillors acknowledged the need for better signage and that the township do any maintenance, not members of the public taking it upon themselves.