Haliburton County council was unanimous Feb. 22 in wanting more information before deciding on an official plan amendment for a proposed 88-unit housing development near Grass Lake in Dysart et al.

The project, fronted by developer Paul Wilson and his company, Harburn Holdings, would repurpose 2.5 hectares of land along Peninsula Road into four lots that would each house multi-storey apartment and condo buildings, with one unit also featuring a commercial component.

Dysart et al’s previous council expressed support for the build last September, but yesterday was the first time it had been discussed inside County council chambers. In his report, planner Steve Stone recommended council approve the application, feeling it conforms to the upper-tier’s official plan and policies. Some council members, though, had doubts.

Coun. Bob Carter felt he hadn’t had enough time to properly digest the 400-plus page dossier Stone distributed on Friday, with Coun. Cec Ryall saying he too wanted to do some more research before landing on a decision.

Council heard from multiple speakers. Advocacy group, The Friends of Grass Lake, represented by Carolyn Langdon and Catherine Swift, called on the County to turn down the proposal, saying it would change the landscape of Grass Lake and the surrounding area forever.

Swift noted a petition launched last year to protest the project had garnered more than 900 signatures, although it’s not known how many are local.

Councillors were informed of an ongoing dispute between Wilson and a neighbouring property owner, Dr. Aimee Filion – who owns and operates Haliburton Veterinary Services. Her lawyer, Raj Kehar, said there was concern over the long-term impacts the development would have on her well water quality and quantity. After crews carried out a hydrogeological study on the site last spring, Filion reported seeing water, “coming out of the tap with the consistency of mud” at her business.

Kehar noted Filion had retained Kitchenerbased hydrogeology group MTE to carry out further testing at the site. He asked council to consider deferring the proposal until after MTE has completed its work. Kehar further noted that, during their preliminary investigation, MTE had found nine potential issues with the Grass Lake proposal – though most surrounded a lack of technical analysis that Anthony Usher, Wilson’s lawyer, previously told The Highlander would be completed after the official plan amendment has been granted.

Kehar noted Filion wasn’t against the project, but wanted to make sure it wouldn’t negatively impact her business.

Coun. Murray Fearrey suggested deferring for a month, until March 22, to give Wilson and Filion time to work out their issues, and his fellow councillors a chance to properly review the proposal.

Waiting until last to offer her thoughts, warden Liz Danielsen said she had some “serious concerns” about the impact the project could have on the surrounding wetlands, though was conflicted as it would bring much-needed new housing inventory to the Highlands.

Usher was confident of striking a deal with Filion, while maintaining the issues brought forth by the Friends group and some councillors regarding impacts to wetlands and water quality of Grass Lake had already been addressed through months-long correspondence with Dysart et al staffers.

“I’m not going to speak to some of the things… brought forward today, as that information is included [in Harburn Holdings’ application package]… if we are able to have some direct dialogue between [Wilson and Filion], we should be able to make progress quickly. I think both sides seem to be committed to trying to resolve this and go down a path that, if it isn’t the same yet, it’s at least parallel,” Usher said.