Citizens came forward to express their concerns with a proposed disposition of Crown land on the shoreline of Centre Lake at a Highlands East council public meeting April 27.

More than 60 people viewed the live-streamed meeting, of which seven delegations presented. The municipality hosted the meeting to gather feedback as the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) considers selling a 200- foot Crown reserve. The move comes at the request of two developers at the east and west sides of the lake. One of the planned developments is a 60-suite resort and wellness spa called Granite Shores on the east side, which also garnered attention.

Many of the delegates expressed concerns about the possible impact of large-scale projects.

“Crown land is the people’s land,” Dale Watson, who leases an island on Centre Lake, said. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. Centre Lake is a beautiful, untouched lake that offers itself to the local public.”

The meeting was distinct from the MNRF’s public consultation, which it will do later regarding a Crown land use policy amendment.

Municipal planner Chris Jones noted no decisions would be made on applications to purchase Crown land until a policy amendment is completed to make it possible. He also said the area would exclude a 66-ft municipal shore road allowance.

Several organizations came forward to discuss the situation, including the Paudash Lake Conservation Association and the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust. Hiawatha First Nations representative Tom Cowie said the lake is within the territory of the Williams Treaties.

“We do have general concerns around the protection of the water, species at risk,” Cowie said. “We look forward to working with you guys in the consultation phase.”

IBI Group planner Julia Redfearn, representing Granite Shore, said they have prepared studies and assessments. She said the resort and spa could bring $450,000 annually to the municipality in property taxes alone and it is willing to work with council and the public to refine the conceptual plan. She also said it will go ahead with or without Crown land.

“The future development is feasible from an environmental, social and ecological perspective,” Redfearn said.

The decision-making on Crown land will ultimately fall to the MNRF, though the municipality can provide feedback and would have a role in subsequent planning approvals. No council members commented during the proceedings.

But Andrew Martin, who spoke against the proposal, said council’s decisions will matter.

“Centre Lake is heavily used by your community locally and it’s an asset we really love,” Martin said. “If this development goes through, I am going to consider it the decision of this council and I think this council really needs to value the assets we have.”

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