SOUTH GLENGARRY, Ontario – The Conservators of Cooper Marsh are raising concerns about a proposed development just east of the wildlife preserve.
South Glengarry Council is poised to vote on rezoning the land from flood zone to open space which would pave the way for the development of 25 new campsites.
Robin Poole, Chair of the Conservators of Cooper Marsh, told Seaway News that this development could threaten the habitat of bird species.
Poole cited the area as a nesting place for birds such as the Least bittern and the Virginia rail.
“The Eastern part of the marsh is where most of these birds breed and this is the big concern,” Poole said.
The eastern part of the marsh sees very little foot traffic Poole explained, but he worried that having a campsite next door would generate noise and smoke which would ruin the wildlife habitat.
“If they build a campground, we will have all sorts of people there and the birds will just disappear,” he said.
Poole felt skeptical that South Glengarry Council would vote against the rezoning measure.
“They want to go out of their way to promote new business and I was told that was the priority,” said Poole, but he went on to argue that Cooper Marsh itself was an economic generator.
According to Poole, the Marsh brings in 15,000 visitors a year, many of which are from out of province.
The Township had held an open house where supporters of the Marsh aired their concerns, and they have also created a Facebook group which now has 1,500 members.
South Glengarry Deputy Mayor Lyle Warden explained that he had yet to decide where he will vote on the issue, but said that the developers, Weaving Basket Group (WBG) have followed all proper procedures, which would not leave Council in a position to turn down the rezoning request.
“While I understand there are definitely concerns from residents, but if they (the developers) are following provincial regulations who are we to put up a roadblock,” said Deputy Mayor Warden, who explained he had spoken with the Conservators. “If we turn it down, it will probably go to the LPAT (Local Planning Appeal Tribunal) where it would likely be overturned anyway.”
Warden indicated that he was not convinced that the development would have an overwhelming negative affect on the Marsh.
“I’m not an expert in the field of wetlands,” he said. “I don’t believe that 25 lots would ruin an adjacent land.”
The Raisin Region Conservation Authority, which owns the land Cooper’s Marsh is on, has stated that they are still formulating recommendations and analyzing potential impacts.
“Raisin Region Conservation Authority (RRCA) provides municipalities with technical advice on how proposed work may impact the natural environment,” the RRCA wrote in a statement to Seaway News. “The proposed development is still in the planning approvals process where the RRCA requests information and studies to formulate our recommendations. We continue to work with everyone involved to better understand the project and any potential impacts.”
Seaway News reached out to WBG, who stated that they have undertaken steps to address any concerns about the environment surrounding the site.
“During his process we have retained Fotenn Planning Consultants, and Beacon Environmental Engineers to ensure that there would be no negative impacts to our property, the neighboring properties, any species, or the environment surround the property (St. Lawrence River, floodplains, and Wetlands) by performing an Environmental Impact Study,” wrote Tom Hughes, Vice President of WBG in an email to Seaway News. “This report from Beacon Environmental was required by the Township and the RRCA, and it has proven that there will be no negative or harmful impacts to the environment or any species.”
Hughes explained that he, along with the Mayor of South Glengarry Frank Prevost met with the Conservators of Coopers Marsh and offered to work with them to protect the habitats of local species.
“That day we discussed in detail our plans for the property and explained that the area that we are asking to be rezoned is approximately 400 ft. from the property line between our property and Cooper’s Marsh, this is a significant buffer that will remain wetland and not be disturbed,” Hughes went on to write. “We also pointed out that we are anxious to work with the Conservators and RRCA to produce signage and educational literature for our visitors to ensure they know about the wetland and how it should be preserved.”