Decision forthcoming on developing the south end of Bob-Lo Island



By Ron Giofu


The future of the subdivision planned for the south end of Bob-Lo Island was the subject of a Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) last week.

The three-day hearing ran last Monday through Wednesday in council chambers with discussion including environmental and planning considerations. Also part of the discussion at the hearing was the way First Nations groups were communicated with.

Kate Lyons from Goodman LLP out of Toronto represented the proponents Bob-Lo Island Inc. and said they have learned about consultation and what it means. She believed Bob-Lo made adequate efforts to reach out and engage the First Nations communities.

“I think the engagement by Bob-Lo Island Inc. has been very important,” Lyons told the hearing.

Lyons indicated during closing submissions that the applicant worked with the county and the town on an emergency plan and that was approved prior to the hearing. She also noted the private ferry service to the island would have sufficient capacity and queuing can be accommodated with road improvements on the island. During earlier testimony, it was also learned that the vehicular traffic could be moved to a northern driveway on the mainland to better accommodate traffic volumes.

Lyons also outlined the level of support from residents on the island and business owners on the mainland that was spoken of during the hearing by the Bois Blanc Home Owners Association (BBHOA) earlier in the hearing.

The development would be a mix of housing and steps were made to enhance the natural heritage system and to protect the quality of water, she indicated.

“We are asking the plan of subdivision be given draft approval subject to conditions,” Lyons said during her closing remarks.

Christine Riley, representing the County of Essex, believed the county tried to make proper efforts to contact First Nations as has the Town of Amherstburg. She noted it is a private development on private property but efforts were made to have adequate consultations with the First Nations.

“We’re here because the county did not make a decision regarding draft plan approval,” she added, noting the town resolved in Aug. 2014 that administration work with the developer and the county to resolve a number of issues.

Riley believed Michael Prue, an island resident who was a participant at the hearing, had concerns that were “hard to nail down” and believed he was unhappy with issues on the island thus was on a “fact finding mission” about things he didn’t like.

Tom Porter, representing the town, said concerns are being addressed and that three planners said that “this is a good development.” He too referenced the Aug. 2014 motion by town council and that there were too many questions at that time, but those questions were being addressed.

Matthew Nahtee,  the Party to proceedings representing the Can-Am Friendship Centre, said they were not anti-development.

“We want it done the right way,” said Nahtee.

Nahtee said the Can-Am Friendship Centre represents 9,500 people in Windsor-Essex County but believes the area is “shortsighted” in the treatment of First Nations people. He said there is more “buy-in” in Chatham-Kent on involving the First Nations.

Prue told the hearing that they should not be bound by decisions of other planners and that better efforts should have been made in the planning of this subdivision.

“It is not sufficient, I would submit, for an Amico representative to pass (county director of planning services Bill) King in the hall and say ‘things are going fine.’”

Prue said his main concern “is and always was” to ensure First Nations are part of the discussion and to protect endangered species that are on the island.

Prue pointed out that he was proud to be a member of the Ontario Legislature that passed the Endangered Species Act but stated that the province could come in and dictate what the development looks like anyway.

In preparation for the hearing, Prue pointed out that he spent three years requesting documents under the Freedom of Information Act.

Prue said he was asked by other residents to point out concerns and he believes he did that and one of the concerns was also the ferry. He said the town has never made a decision on the project and suggested a public meeting even if the ferry was the only topic.

Shirley Curson-Prue testified earlier in the day Wednesday with a portion of her testimony centring on how residents are notified of issues and the removal of trees from the island several years ago. Cindy Prince of Amico Developments told the hearing later in the day there was no stop work order issued and that they took down the trees because they were dying and there were bugs that were killing the trees.

“We are allowed to cut down trees on Bob-Lo Island, especially when they are dead,” she said.

No time frame was given as to when the LPAT will reach a decision.

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