Many residents of Southampton are upset that a Significant Woodland and Wetlands may be subjected to development following an application under the Planning Act submitted to the County of Bruce and the Town of Saugeen Shores in the Fall of 2018.
The lands lie between Island Street to South Street and McNab Street to Huron Street and was designated as Significant Woodland and Wetland, Flood Plain and Environmental Hazard by the Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority (SVCA).
According to residents in the area, the woodlands “teem with wildlife and fish habitat”.
One resident (who asked that his name not be used) said that, “The land in these documents is significant woodland over four hectares in size and also most of the land is Environmental Hazard. So, basically the developer bought this land knowing it was Significant Woodland which cannot be developed and Environmental hazard which cannot be developed. Now he wants to change the land use designation to develop the property and move the Environmental Hazard border lines to get maximum land use.”
He added that, “The 15 properties on the documents is deceiving, those are 15 parcels of land owned by several different owners and the developer wants this land-use change then he would do the studies and I think buy the lots he does not own yet from the others. These are not building lots like our lots. They are larger in most instances so that they could be made into several lots. At this time with this application for the designation change, the developer does not even have to submit a site subdivision or condominium plan. We are sure that would come later.”
According to the SVCA report on the Bruce County site about the subject lands, “It is also the opinion of SVCA staff, the properties feature wetlands, which are floodprone lands that contain unstable organic soils not suitable for development. SVCA mapping shows portions of the properties are affected by wetland, which is also indicated in AWS’s Supplement Significant Woodland Study, s. 5.1.1 and Figure No. 5. It is important to note, SVCA staff have not had an opportunity to undertake review of the wetland boundaries defined by AWS. However, this can be undertaken at a later date when site specific development is proposed on the subject lands. The approximate wetland areas are largely located within the Environmental Hazard designation shown on Schedule ‘A’ of the OP.
Environmental Protection (EP) zoning as shown on Schedule A, Map 18 of the Town of Saugeen Shores Zoning By-law (ZB) is generally accurate and precludes development in the aforementioned hazard lands. Both the Environmental Hazard designation and EP zoning are acceptable to SVCA staff. The hazard policies of the OP and ZB, in general, do not support development in areas susceptible to hazards such as flooding and unstable soils, which would limit development on a large portion of the subject lands, specifically south of Bay Street.”
When it comes to ‘Natural Heritage’, the SVCA says that “The AWS 2018 Supplement Significant Woodlands Study (SWS) noted-above has identified the following natural heritage features on and adjacent to the subject properties; Significant Woodlands, Fish Habitat, Endangered and Threatened Species, Significant Wildlife Habitat, and wetlands. SVCA staff finds AWS’s results acceptable.”
The report goes on to say that, in the opinion of SVCA staff, the Project Area No. 3 features Fish Habitat. “SVCA mapping shows two watercourses transect the properties north and south of Bay Street. Section 2.6.5, Fish Habitat policies of the Town of Saugeen Shores OP requires an EIS be undertaken for development proposed within and adjacent to fish habitat; and that development and site alteration shall not be permitted in fish habitat, except in accordance with Provincial and Federal requirements. Section 2.6.5 of the Town’s OP is in accordance with s. 2.1.6 of the PPS, 2014.”
According to a letter of Application by land-use planning consultant Ron Davidson, the developer George Durigon of Guelph, owns five parcels of the vacant land and is in the process of purchasing another nine lots. The developer had an independent Significant Woodland study completed that agreed with the SVCA finding that it is Significant Woodland and that “development is currently outright prohibited”.
According to the independent EIS on behalf of the owner, the large woodland extending to the south (Bay St.) has “five primary ecological land classifications:
- Coniferous Forest (FOC) dominated be White Cedar with scattered pockets of Balsam Fir and White Spruce.
- Deciduous Forest (FOD) being mixed types of dry Sugar Maple and lowland fresh-moist Green Ash.
- Mixed Forest (FOM) having a balance of coniferous trees (White Cedar, Balsam Fir) with deciduous trees (Sugar Maple, White Birch, Poplar & Aspens).
- Mixed Swamp (SWM) having a mixture of hydrophilic conifer (White Cedar, Tamarack) and deciduous (Green ash, Red Maple, Balsam Poplar) trees.
- Deciduous Swamps (SWD) dominated with Red Maple or Green Ash and typically inundated with spring season flooding conditions.
- Thicket Swamps (SWT) being a mix of tall willow shrubs with scattered hardwood saplings within moist-wet soil conditions.
In the Town’s current Official Plan (OP), Town of Saugeen Shores Significant Woodlands Policy, currently does not permit development or site alterations within significant woodlands beyond those studied under the 2012 Significant Woodland Review process.
The consultant and developer are asking for an amendment to the Town’s Official Plan to recommend that the boundary between the Environmental Hazard and Residential designations “… should be shifted considerably in favour of the ‘Residential’.”
The Town of Saugeen Shores OP policy 184.108.40.206.1 states:
The purpose of the Environmental Hazard designation is to identify lands within the Town that are recognized as being unsuitable for development or have the potential to be unsuitable for development due to the natural hazards associated with the lands. Natural hazard features include floodplains, steep and unstable slopes, wetlands, erosion prone lands, organic and unstable soils, low-lying areas, poorly drained soils, surface water features, as well as flooding, erosion and dynamic beach hazards associated with Lake Huron.
Further, the Town of Saugeen Shores OP policy 220.127.116.11 states:
“Development or site alteration shall not be permitted within any wetlands.”
“Through consultation discussions and a meeting of June 2018 with Town staff and the proponents consulting team, direction was provided for a ‘next step approach’ for potential development to proceed through submission of a ‘Supplemental Significant Woodlands Study’ similar to and following guidance of the Town of Saugeen Shores Significant Woodlands Study of October 2012.”
If the Official Plan Amendment is approved, the developer, according to the consultant, will then move forward with other studies, including an Environmental Impact Study (EIS). At this time however, “… the developers are simply looking for the proverbial ‘green light’ from the Town by having Council remove this overly-restrictive Significant Woodland policy.”
The Application is coming before the Town at a Public Meeting on Monday, March 18, 2019 at 6:30 p.m., at the Plex, 600 Tomlinson Drive, Port Elgin, Ontario for consideration.
Prior to the public meeting, anyone wanting to submit written opposition must do so by Monday, March 11th to Planning Applications Technician, Julie Steeper – email@example.com