Minden Hills Council voted to defer approval for a corporate retreat centre on the shores of Lake Kashagawigamog. At a Dec. 9 meeting, Mayor Brent Devolin said council had received “dozens” of community responses on the matter.
Haliburton Post House is a 16-room lakefront cottage complex that applicants Joel Baker and Heather Milstein said mainly caters to corporate retreats.
While they approached council for permission to rezone the property from shoreline residential to resort/tourist establishment, nearby residents raised concerns over how the retreat centre seems operational before being designated for its current use.
“The public consultation of this whole development appears to be the cart before the horse,” said Lake Kashagawigamog cottager Richard Guyatt. Post House’s planning consultant said the renovations were needed “in order to advance the proposal and gain interest from prospective clients.”
In a Dec. 21 interview, Milstein said they began the rezoning process more than a year ago, and submitted the application to Minden Hills six months prior.
“This wasn’t something we just started recently,” she said.
Nearby resident Debbie Fitzsimmons told councillors she was worried that Post House may draw loud visitors who could disrupt lake life.
Baker said he understood residents’ concerns. “We want to reassure them we’ll be responsible community members. It’s also a small venue, it’s not a hotel.”
There won’t be any motorized boats or other loud outdoor activities on-site for guests, and Baker said a welcome package will outline regulations about limiting outdoor noise after 10 p.m. and all guests and staff will be informed about noise bylaws, “not to disturb their neighbours.” Baker and Milstein said the project reflects their appreciation for the area.
“We feel really passionate about the Highlands. We’re really passionate about this opportunity to bring folks there,” Milstein said, mentioning a focus on hiring local and buying local food.
Emily Stonehouse of Yours Outdoors and the Haliburton Tourism Action Committee said the “unique venue” is likely to “bring business to the area on a year-round basis.”
Nearby Cedar Grove Cottage rental owner Len Henderson said he supported the project. “I’ve seen what the new owners have done and I think it shows an incredible commitment on their part,” he said, mentioning approving the rezoning would mean “Haliburton and Minden are open for business.”
A scientific review from Hutchinson Environmental Ltd. concluded that the new use for the property is unlikely to increase any phosphorus loading on the lake, in part due to a recently-installed septic system that is estimated to control 97 per cent of phosphorous from entering the lake.
While the property’s shoreline has been grass, the planner said the owners plan to renaturalize the shoreline with native vegetation. “It was very important for us to maintain the natural characteristics of the property,” Baker told councillors.
Council voted to defer the application, and have staff gather more information on the file and property. “It’s somewhat precedent-setting,” Devolin said. “I’d like to know the process to this point with respect to what’s happened there has complied.” Baker said “we’re going to keep working with council respectfully through the process, and answer any questions that may come up.”