South Glengarry Council is between a rock and a hard place. On the one side are the supporters of Cooper Marsh, who want to protect their greenspace and the wildlife who live there. On the other is a potential development of land abutting the marsh, and South Glengarry Council caught in in the middle.
A local property developer, Weaving Baskets Group (WBG), is petitioning South Glengarry Council to rezone land adjacent to the marsh so that they can develop it into a new campsite with 25 spots for caravan camping.
The Conservators of Cooper Marsh warn that this development will harm this wetland area and the animals who depend on it as a habitat. Specifically, that area of the marsh is a nesting site to several bird species such as the Least bittern and the Virginia rail which they say cannot be found in other parts of the region.
I have sympathy for the position of the Conservators of Cooper Marsh. Our green space is precious. Not only are green spaces essential to wildlife, but they help promote physical and mental health to the people who enjoy them as well.
Woods, wetlands, green space, these things truly are precious if for no other reason than this, there won’t be more green space made. Our supply of wild areas shrinks every day, so when a forest is cut down, or a wetland cleared, it’s gone. Whenever development encroaches on these spaces, serious thoughts should be given to its preservation.
That being said, the developer in this case is not developing on the land of Cooper Marsh, they are on private property. To their credit, the developers have met with the Conservators of Cooper Marsh and representatives from the Township of South Glengarry and have attempted to address any concerns.
“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.”
Furthermore, WBG have stated that the land that they intend to develop is 400 ft. away from the property line with the Marsh, and that they are willing to work with the Conservators on educational signs informing their patrons of the environmental significance of the wetlands.
Those who oppose the planned campsite are asking South Glengarry Council to not approve the rezoning of the land, there by blocking the development. It isn’t that easy though. Even if Council wanted to block the development, they could open the Township up to costly legal jeopardy if they did so.
WBG dotted their “i”s and crossed their “t”s. As stated above, WBG has already done the environmental impact study, they followed the procedure to have this land re-zoned. So, if WBG has followed the rules, then it would be arbitrary of South Glengarry Council to deny their request.
My view outlined above about South Glengarry Council not being in a position to refuse WBG’s rezoning request isn’t held by myself alone, members of South Glengarry Council understand this as well.
“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 in an interview with Seaway News at the end of September. “If we turn it down, it will probably go to the LPAT (Local Planning Appeal Tribunal) where it would likely be overturned anyway.”
Ultimately, I think that the only ones who can stop the development, are WBG themselves. They have already shown a willingness to work with the Conservators on this issue. Hopefully if the Conservators and WBG can get together again compromise will prevail and an agreement can be found that everyone can live with. As far as South Glengarry Council goes though, I think their hands are tied.
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