Residents of Southampton North disagree with Environmental Impact Study

To the Editor:

An Open Letter to Saugeen Shores Town Council:

Re:  File S-2022-01 – north of the Saugeen River

I am addressing all members of the Planning Committee (that I am aware of, excepting Councillor Cheryl Grace who has recused herself from this development plan)including the two Bruce County Planners who are involved in current Planning files in this area (North Southampton), the CAO of Saugeen Shores and the two Saugeen Shores Managers who seem to typically answer technical questions on these developments (or at least, the questions often directed to them).

I have also copied the SVCA EP Coordinator who wrote the file Planner on August 26, 2022 and requested, among other things, that the EIS Ecologist confirm the floodplain is contained on the east side of Bruce Road 13.  I am not even certain that it (east side) is technically a floodplain by definition, but it is most certainly a swamp.

As a 66-year resident of this area, i can emphatically confirm that the wetlands, swamps and marshes are NOT only contained on the east side but are also littered throughout the west side. No doubt, Mr. Morton’s (AWS) assertions would conflict with mine but, in my opinion, he would be wrong in his Environmental Impact Study (EIS).

There is a large area of swamp and seasonal wetland north of Highway 21, west of BR13 and east of Madwayosh.  A significant portion of the bush lot**, bordered by Oak and Turner Streets, Shore Road and Deer Run, comprises approximately the eastern third of that lot and varies from swamp to seasonal wetland.  This is immediately west of the Earnest development, across Turner Street, which the Planning Committee approved. There is a large, almost four-hectare seasonal wetland in the same plain to the north of the Earnest plot also bordering on BR13, the subject property.

**I believe one of the first EIS type reports by AWS/John Morton was on that property and was undertaken around 2012.  Among other things he declared it “not a wetland” and, therefore, not under the jurisdiction of the SVCA.  He also cast doubt on the presence of existing wildlife.  The surrounding neighbours however, were ‘up in arms’ about this description as we are, in fact, aware that it is a wetland with an abundance of wildlife.  The bush land in question is literally subject to large animal and human worn trails. It is an intergenerational area where grandparents, parents and children literally have explored wildlife habitat.

Wildlife:  On a personal level with neighbours, we have observed Eastern Ribbon snakes (endangered), many other varieties of snakes, snapping turtles (at risk/endangered) traversing through the property toward a swampy spot to lay eggs, tadpoles in the swampy waters in huge abundance, deer and wild turkeys in significant groups that seek the shelter and protection of the bush and bears are routinely see emerging from the bush.

Unfortunately, these furtive wildlife creatures (not unlike sewer odours) do not just appear on demand.

At one point in the past, I and other neighbours corresponded with the SVCA and I believe they intervened due to an endangered skink (5-lined skink perhaps) was found on the property and that the size of a development was reduced. Given the close proximity to the subject property, it would not be beyond the realm of possibility that such a rare creature could be there as well and that this event should be within the files of the SVCA.

Recently, the Planning Committee approved the Earnest development plan without any engineering/ground water/soil testing being discussed and Councillor Bud Halpin communicated to a resident here that “Environmental studies and test holes and engineering are all required now.” In addition, developer Sabbagth more than a year ago was approved without even a one hole test into the mucky ground. In addition, there were sufficient anomalies in the EIS report on that property to make residents more skeptical about other reports.  Despite not being an expert in the ‘Ecologist’ profession, but having read some of the reports on these properties in Saugeen Shores, one of the common attributes in all reports is that there never seems to be a confirmation related to wildlife of which local residents are fully aware.

According to AWS, there are no owls – yet, I personally have seen the endangered ‘Saw-whet owl in my security camera; I hear owls but according to AWS there are no nests; three kinds of eagles have been seen, including bald eagles at risk, that catch fish in Lake Huron and take them back to their inland nests.

According to AWS, he (Morton) does ‘Anuran’ testing, listening for the spring peeper or tree frog chorus – a wetland indicator.  However, he apparently does this around the end of April or early May for approximately 15 minutes starting before the sun sets. He states that he has never heard them at all near the Oak Street or captioned property bush in question which is not surprising given that their habits end by mid-April.

When AWS revisited the Copway property to check for fauna, it was a one-hour visit according to sources.

In addition to all that, I found this article about a 2019 Public Meeting about a property in the south of Southampton off Huron Street, and it is really worth reading:

Perhaps, Mr. Morton is severely limited by the budget of the developer or landowner but,  the reality is that in order to find various species, you may be required to crawl around on the forest floor for hours, turning over rotten logs and such to catch a glimpse of something and, hopefully, you can catch a quick picture because you certainly don’t want to intrude on its habitat.  Similarly, you may have to acquire some kind of expensive overhead drone to fly a grid over a property to tree nesting.

In any event, I didn’t consider the wetland groundwater aspect regarding the Copway lands until I discovered that the Engineer and Ecologist reports were in conflict.

AWS states … “On-site investigation confirmed that no wetland environment occurs within the Study lands”

Engineer’s report states … “There is a minor depression on the northwest side of Bruce Rd. 13. There is no defined outlet for the drainage depression and it drains to the owner’s property.”

In the borehole reports, it states … “in the lower right corner (of the property) that a month later in the summer, one of the 5 metre boreholes. had filled up to 2.56metres and another had filled up to 1.42metres.  Therefore, that may play hell with basements and more so with with planned basement apartments.

“Okay Planners and Planning Committee members and Town supervisors, get outside and have a look at Lake Innes Robinson.  The property is literally covered with pools of water, some very large.  Is it an anomaly? I do not think so, I think AWS got it wrong. Not much snow to speak of last winter and, I’m told by good authority that there was no real freezing in the ground.  This is saturation, folks.  And after downpours, I can’t imagine what it will look like.  I suggest you wear boots, maybe even waders.

You – planners, councillors and employees, are all responsible and accountable to the residents and taxpayers (including the future taxpayers that accidentally buys one of these properties (maybe even liable in the latter case if you knowingly approve this development).  Transparency, accountability – they are your responsibility.

Mike Finn
Southampton North