SOUTH GLENGARRY, Ontario – A proposed campsite on land adjacent to the Cooper Marsh Conservation Area passed a significant hurdle on Monday when South Glengarry Township Council voted in favour of rezoning the land, paving the way for development.
Run Guo Investments Canada Ltd./Fotenn Planning + Design which owns the land petitioned the Township in May of 2020 to rezone the land from Provincially Significant Wetland (PSW) to Open-Space to allow for the development of 25 campsites.
“This has been a complex file. It has been complex because of the location and the proximity of the PSW,” said Joanne Haley, the Township’s General Manager of Planning, Building & Enforcement.
While the Raisin Region Conservation Authority reviewed the petition, they did not find any reason to object to the re-zoning a local group dubbed Protect Cooper Marsh has been lobbying for a year to block the proposed zoning amendment.
Protect Cooper Marsh raised concerns that development so close to a protected wetland could impact the habitat of various endangered or at-risk wildlife. The Township’s report specifically cited the Least Bittern and Blandings Turtle as at-risk species that use the area for breeding.
Haley said that if Council approved the re-zoning amendment on Monday night, that there were still other hurdles that the development would have to overcome before it could proceed.
“If it is approved this evening, there are going to be two other components that this campground will be subject to,” she said. “One will be site plan control, and the other will be a permit for the at risk species and they will be assessed at that time.”
Protect Cooper Marsh was more pessimistic about the chances that the development could still be halted.
“It is finished,” reads a statement on the Protect Cooper Marsh Facebook page from group member Karen Douglass Cooper. “In spite of petitions with thousands of signatures, additional reports and dozens of calls and letters calling for reconsideration, the Protect Cooper Marsh Campaign has failed to protect those who cannot speak for themselves. The motion has passed and development will move forward adjacent to Cooper Marsh. Thank you to Councillor Stephanie Jaworski who was the one Council member who agreed to view additional scientific documentation and proposed postponement of the decision.”
The motion passed by a vote of three-to-one with only Councillor Jaworski voting against.
“Its my opinion that the majority of our residents don’t support the expansion of commercial use in this area,” she said. “I think their opposition is reasonable. I don’t think this is a case of NIMBYism.”
“I have not seen anything that says there would be no impact,” Councillor Jaworski added.
The members of Council who voted in favour of the re-zoning amendment said it was not an easy decision.
“Likely this is the most important issue I’ve had to deal with this term of Council,” said Councillor Martin Lang. “I’m having a hard time finding a reason that if I had to stand up and defend a position not to vote for this that I’d be able to point to something specific . . . that this would be a bad decision to make.”
Deputy Mayor Lyle Warden acknowledged that there had been passionate debate in the community about this topic, but that the developers had followed the rules.
“This has been a very passionate file. We are in a difficult position there is a lot of public support for this to go through, but they’ve done everything they’ve been asked to do,” he said.