Dysart needs to pressure Wig

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A new date has been pencilled in for the demolition of the Wigamog Inn.

Dysart et al bylaw officer, Hailey Cole, told The Highlander this week that, due to an ongoing Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks investigation, she doesn’t expect teardown of the dilapidated property to be finished until spring 2024.

We’ve heard this song and dance before. Forgive us if we’re a little skeptical.

Once the shining light of a thriving lodge industry on Lake Kashagawigamog, the times, and lack of any real investment, has left the Wigamog a shell of its former self. Major work was needed well before current owners, Aurora Group, bought it in 2016. At the time, they pushed grandiose ideas for what that parcel of land could become. Sadly, there has been no follow through.

The township has been actively working to have the site torn down for well over a year. In May 2022, former bylaw officer Robert Mascia issued a remedial action notice to Aurora Group outlining 47 infractions of the township’s property standards bylaw, with issues varying from downed power lines to smashed windows, damaged doors, and collapsed decks.

A few months later, Aurora Group representatives told Dysart’s property standards committee they wanted to demolish the main lodge and 36 outbuildings. They then missed a deadline to submit a demolition permit, which led to council ordering its staff to put out an RFP to have a contractor complete the work on Aurora Group’s behalf.

Before that could be done, Aurora Group hired a team to begin tearing down chalets that littered the northern portion of the property. This was in April. Mascia told The Highlander then that he was told the plan was for demolition to be wrapped up in six weeks.

Eight months later, and there’s still much work to be done.

The project has been further complicated by an MECP investigation. Officials were vague when The Highlander reached out seeking more information. No timelines were presented. This is a major red flag, as the province isn’t especially renowned for moving quickly. Especially when it comes to environmental issues.

Deputy mayor Walt McKechnie is trying to stay optimistic, hoping the ministry’s involvement will help move things along. I’m not convinced.
I think Dysart council had it right months ago, when mayor, Murray Fearrey, called on staff to put together another RFP to try and find someone to demolish it. At the time, staff felt this would be a risk and advised against it. They said, since Aurora Group had started demolition, it would be in the township’s interest to allow them the chance to follow through.

Again, that hasn’t happened. Aurora Group has shown on more than one occasion that it is incapable of sticking to its word when it comes to the Wigamog.

If council truly wants to see the site levelled, and I believe they do, they’re going to have to do more than just sit back and hope. At a meeting last week, coun. Barry Boice said he’d heard there are people squatting on the property. If true, that’s a huge safety risk.

Then there’s the empty swimming pool, the mountains of debris from torn down chalets. There’s no fencing preventing people from getting in and out.

I worry that, unless the township applies real pressure once the MECP investigation is over, spring 2024 will come and go with the Wigamog still standing.