Proponents of the Granite Shores development on Centre Lake in Highlands East brought a revised plan to council May 14 in hopes of getting the stalled project back on the books.

John Ariens, of Arcadis, said the purpose of his delegation was to present the altered drawings, he hoped, “will address the concerns raised by council and members of the public previously.”

He asked council to consider his slide deck, “and the benefits (the development will) bring, and hold another public meeting, and obtain public input, and make a determination of the desirability of this project either with or without a Crown reserve being in place, and, of course, also to make a final determination on a road closing that’s required.”

He was representing a GTA-based client who has owned the property for more than 10 years. “Their goal has always been to develop a seasonal cottage development along Centre Lake, looking to use the balance of the land for a maple syrup harvesting facility.”

Ariens said the client has other developments in the region, including on Bigfools Lake in Hastings County and in Bancroft. The Highlands East property is just west of Cardiff, and comprises three separate parcels, separated by a road allowance. It’s just under 1,100 acres, and along the lake is a 200-foot wide Crown reserve.

He said the plan fits in with the County’s and township’s official plans.

One of the obstacles has been a 200-foot Crown reserve on the lake, which Ariens said was established when the province sold mining rights, to protect the lake from mining activity. He said his client had since purchased the mineral rights, donating them back to the province.

“So, the need for the Crown reserve is no longer there to protect the lake from any mining activity. The only real function that the Crown reserve has is that it does provide public access to the lake.”

The original paperwork called for cottage development along Centre Lake with a couple of backlots. There was a block of land earmarked for a resort and wellness centre and spa, which would have included about 60 suites and 28 lots for a total development of 88 units. A Hwy. 118 commercial block was also in the original plans.

At a public meeting on the Crown reserve disposition a few years ago, concerns were raised about public access to the lake, possible destruction of the natural environment, the scale of the development and potential impacts from radon gas.

Council did not support removal of the Crown reserve, or the Crown land use policy amendment. It said the development was too intense, and while access points would remain open, the character of the lake would change, with potential for negative adverse impacts.

Ariens said ever since, “the application has stood still.”

However, he said they have been working on the redesign. They have removed the wellness centre and resort and spa component, added a few more shoreline lots, and now sit at 33 lots.

He also addressed public access to the lake, saying it’s now a narrow, steep driveway, with no real parking area and poor sightlines.

“What our client is prepared to do is to enhance that public access by coming in off the condominium road to provide direct access to the lake together with a parking area, picnic area, possible camping spots, and really enhance the public access to that particular lake.”

Deputy mayor Cec Ryall said the public was concerned about not just access to the lake, but a developer over-developing the shoreline.

Ariens said there could be setbacks established, “preventing boathouses, gazebos, that type of encroachment and maintaining that vegetative shoreline, which is so important for maintaining the quality of the lake. The removal of the reserve doesn’t automatically mean that people can go nuts on that particular shoreline, they would still be subject to normal and proper environmental controls.”