Although Haliburton County council officially ratified an amendment to its Official Plan April 26, opening the door for Harburn Holdings to proceed with a proposed 88-unit development fronting Grass Lake, landowner Paul Wilson is anticipating a lengthy court battle before the project can go ahead.

Through the project, which was brought forward in 2021, Wilson is seeking to repurpose 2.5 hectares of land along Peninsula Road in Dysart et al into four lots that would each house multi-storey apartment and condo buildings, with one unit featuring a commercial component.

Dysart’s previous council supported the build last September. County approved the project last week, after being satisfied that a lingering issue between Wilson and adjacent property owner – Dr. Aimee Coysh, who owns and operates Haliburton Veterinary Services – over the long-term impacts the development could have on well water quality, will be addressed.

Speaking to The Highlander, Wilson said the next step is to apply for severances for the four lots. He’s holding off on that until a 20-day appeal period, where any opposing party can file with the Ontario Land Tribunal, has passed. Any grievance must be submitted by May 16.

Carolyn Langdon and Catherine Swift, representing the Friends of Grass Lake advocacy group, told The Highlander last month they intend to file an appeal. Because the Friends group isn’t a registered corporation, it cannot file an appeal, leaving it up to an individual to complete the process. As of May 2, Langdon said an appeal had not yet been submitted.

“We have 20 days to respond. We have had initial conversations with an environmental lawyer and will be following up [before the deadline],” she said.

Wilson noted if no appeal is forthcoming, he will immediately proceed with his severance application. The developer has gone on record to state he isn’t interested in building the units himself, and will instead look to sell the property once all approvals are in.

Addressing County council last month, Wilson said his primary focus is ensuring the land is managed properly through the construction phase. He noted he’ll “be picky” over who he sells to and will retain final say on any development proposal.

Planner ‘excited’ by  provincial policy changes

County planner Steve Stone said the “fulsome changes” implemented to Ontario’s provincial policy statement last month could bring far reaching benefits to the County.

“It’s been changed to promote and streamline planning approvals to allow for more homes to be built in Ontario,” Stone said. “I’m quite excited about them.”

Some of the more significant changes deal with the timely examination of settlement areas for potential modification and expansion. He said this would allow for local and regional councils to implement changes in these areas without the need for a lengthy municipal review process.

Stone said the province is also loosening restrictions for rural development.

“There may be greater opportunities for this area to look at things like rural subdivisions… this could all allow for some additional growth [in the County],” he said.

Warden Liz Danielsen asked Stone to bring a full report back to council, outlining the full range of benefits and any negative impacts the new legislation may bring.