To the Editor:
WHICH WILL BE THE TOWN’S PRIORITY WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE?
The woodland AND its wetland OR the proposed HOUSING DEVELOPMENT #S-2021-006?
Déjà vu. I find myself writing to you regarding the “Miramichi Shores Application #S-2021-006” for the second time. That is because there is new information which needs to be shared. At the same time, there is some information which needs to be reiterated before it is too late.
As you may recall from watching the Planning Department Meeting of July 19, 2021 or perhaps from reading my first letter of August 12th, there were a number of concerns raised about this particular housing development application including:
- length of the existing cul-de-sac plus the additional new proposed length
- septic impact concerns
- tree retention issues
- water table concerns
- natural heritage impacts
- protection of surrounding bush/forest and its wetlands, wildlife, plant and animal species
Before I discuss the new information that has come to my attention, let’s do a quick recap of the “safety” issue. The following are a few hypothetical scenarios to consider:
Q. If you bought a toy for your child that was later deemed to be unsafe, would you ensure the child stopped using the toy? Q. If there was a recall on the brakes of your car, would you take your vehicle to the dealership to have them repaired or replaced? Q. If sparks occurred every time you unplugged an appliance from an outlet, would you take appropriate action to ensure your house didn’t burn to the ground from an electrical issue?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions (hopefully you answered “yes” to all 3), then I would assume that you take safety seriously. And on behalf of everyone who might be impacted by your decision to respect safety and take appropriate action when needed, I thank you.
Here is yet another scenario to consider which more clearly represents why this application to add more houses to our subdivision should be denied by Saugeen Shores Council, and at the Bruce County level.
Perhaps this one is more relatable to you than: toys, cars and appliances … Consider there is an auditorium which has a maximum occupancy rate of 100 people. However, one day it is overcrowded to a capacity of 300 people. The auditorium has one set of double doors located on one side of the room only. One door typically opens inward for ingress/entering. The other door opens outward for egress/exiting. But suddenly a fire breaks out inside the auditorium and everyone is pushing and shoving and frantically trying to get to those 2 doors to get to safety … but wait … that’s where the fire is burning. Would you like to be one of the people trying to get out of harm’s way?
Similar to those examples above, there is a very probable safety issue with cul-de-sacs – especially those designed like the one where I live. First of all, it is longer than acceptable limits (by almost 7 times!), with only one entry/exit point and no secondary emergency access. There has been an opportunity for the Town/Municipality to fix the problem but nothing has been done. Would that lead some people to assume that this inaction is the equivalent of answering “no” to the first three questions above? It may appear so.
If the Town has no intention of fixing the problem, then the absolute least they can do is to ensure they do NOT approve this application for another Phase of the development. To approve the application would be the equivalent of increasing the number of people in the auditorium to 400. Think about that auditorium as being our subdivision. From a safety perspective, this should be a no-brainer, in my opinion. And yet the developer wants to add more houses and more people to the subdivision (ie. the overcrowded auditorium scenario, as it were). Should that be justified and approved? I think not.
Regardless of the concerns which were expressed a year ago about the developer adding 14 more lots to our subdivision, the Applicant stated in a Saugeen Valley Conservation (SVCA) Report (dated April 4, 2022): “… I was contemplating revising the subdivision plan to expand the limits of the subdivision into the remaining lands that were zoned Planned Development and to reduce the lot frontages similar to what was recently approved for the Lakeside Woods subdivision. This would’ve increased the number of lots and increased the density …”. Say what?!? You were considering adding even more houses than the original 14 … and more people … and more vehicles … and more length to the already over-extended cul-de-sac size?!? I shudder in disbelief by the developer’s admission in that report.
As Mr. Stockie stated in his fight against the Bay Street Woodland development (March 2019): “It is typical of developers to maximize development potential in order to maximize profits. They do this by hiring highly-paid consultants who are pro-development, take direction from the developer who is paying them and deliver results that are favourable to the developer. The Town and the County should require that all developers’ reports be subject to peer review by professional consultants selected by the municipality and paid for by the developer. This is not an uncommon practice by local government”. I couldn’t have said it better myself, Mr. Stockie. Thank you.
More new information … Subsequent to this application submission and the public meeting on July 19, 2021, more reports have been provided by Interdepartmental Agencies regarding their explicit concerns about the application. Unfortunately, due to changes in legislation (ie. the “Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act”), these new documents are not readily available unless you request a copy from the Bruce County Planning Department. So, for those of you who are vested in your community, I highly recommend you request access to these documents because the ones you see on the Bruce County Planning Application website do NOT provide all the information you need to make an informed opinion on this matter.
For example, the SVCA identified another safety issue in their April 4, 2022 report. Due to the fact that the proposed Phase 4 subdivision extension would occur in wetlands, they do NOT want any basements to be constructed due to the high water table and this basement restriction is to be noted on the Grading Plan/Site Plan. Therefore, my next question is – If the water table is too high for basements, how safe will it be to add another 14 septic tank systems into this wetland type of setting?
After consulting with a Public Health Official (whose area of expertise was septic systems), I was reminded that the Port Elgin area is known for its sandy conditions and, since sand has no structure, water passes through it freely. Hmmm. Therefore, if septic tank failures occur, the leaked sewage could freely pass through the sand, wetlands and streams and into Lake Huron.
Keep in mind that many of the septic systems located in and around Miramichi Bay Road are in fairly close proximity to the main water intake for the Southampton Water Treatment Plant – the same plant which serves both Southampton and Port Elgin. Any failures would also be within the “Intake Protection Zone” for this same source of drinking water. To protect the water quality of Lake Huron, in general, and specifically the drinking water for all of Saugeen Shores, I am of the opinion that the Town needs to stop all future development in proximity to the lakeshore where septic systems would be required.
In 2019, in a separate application process for the woodland area on Bay Street, an expert on the subject of natural resources provided his constructive criticism. It would appear there are a number of similarities between that Bay Street property and the one that is proposed to be developed as “Phase 4”; however, I will let you be the judge. Click on this link to read his comments: D Brandt – Saugeen Times Article – Mar 15 2019.
The County of Bruce Official Plan and the Saugeen Shores Official Plan identified the forest tract in the Miramichi Shores area as being significant. “This forest area is also located within the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry’s Natural Heritage System (NHS) limits.” Further to the point of the importance of our woodlands, there was an announcement made that the Town has “acquired what it calls significant woodlands”. It had approved the transfer of 26 hectares on the west side of the Summerside subdivision, bringing the total amount of municipally protected forest to +80 hectares.
The Town says by doing this, it is “fulfilling its mandate to maintain its natural assets.” Mayor Luke Charbonneau said, “I am proud that we have permanently protected this significant woodland in our community.” The article further said that the Town is committed to safeguarding the natural heritage and maintaining the woods. So to this point, I ask the obvious, “What about the Town’s opportunity and responsibility to deny this Phase 4 subdivision application and in doing so preserve the remaining balance of this particular “significant” woodland too?
Although the amount of land varies from one report to another, for argument’s sake, this application (if approved) would remove about 4 hectares (or 9 acres) for the Phase 4 portion alone. According to a Cobide Engineering Drawing, there are a total of five parcels of “PD” (ie. Planned Development) land in this section of woodland to the north of Carter Drive. In other words, there are still, potentially, more sections of woodland to be removed in the future.
As the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON) stated in their letter of April 20, 2022, “… at what point do incremental incursions into significant woodland become significant negative impacts?”
For anyone considering the future purchase of a lot in Miramichi Shores Phase 4 (should the application be approved), here are some points you need to consider first. Some items listed below are to appear on “Title” and WILL transfer to any subsequent homeowner. However, some items will appear on the “Offers of Purchase and Sale” only, but they will still be binding. Other items were referenced in the Interdepartmental Agency reports but are significant points to consider, nonetheless.
1. Basements: They will NOT be constructed. “The Lot Grading Plan to be submitted should identify that in-ground basements shall not be permitted due to high-ground water table”. Similarly, no footings are to be built below the groundwater elevations. The Hydrogeological Report also states that “the groundwater table is close to grade”.
2. Trees: They can only be removed between Oct. 1st – Mar. 31st to protect bats and bird nesting periods. The Tree Retention Plan MUST be adhered to, ie. Owners have to retain at least 25% of the trees and replant at a 2:1 ratio. Trees used for landscaping purposes are not considered in this ratio.
3. Eavestroughing: All eavestroughing must be directed to the rear of the yard.
4. Flooding: The Site Grading Plan should protect residences from flooding including a 100-year event. (But I am not sure if this Site Grading Plan comes with a 100% guarantee so you might want to check with your property insurance provider first regarding your exclusions/inclusions.)
5. # of Bedrooms: I admit that I am confused by this topic. The Applicant’s “Functional Servicing Report” (FSR) states the sewage effluent volume for Phase 4 is based on 1,000l/day for each lot. However, the Ontario Building Code’s criteria indicates that 1,000l/day would be somewhere between a 1-bedroom house (750l/day) and a 2-bedroom house (1,100l/day) only. So if you want to build more than a 1-bedroom house, you should investigate/dispute the applicant’s FSR calculations first.
6. Building Restrictions: Strict architectural guidelines will be used in Phase 4. (For more information, I highly recommend you check out this link: https://miramichishores.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/Miramichi-Shores-Phase4ArchitecturalControls-TreeRetentionGuidelinesDRAFTApril15-2022.doc. Based on those lists, perhaps there are no restrictions (at least) on the interior of your home including: the colour of your towels, what you put in your refrigerator, etc.)
7. Wetlands vs Land Transfer Requirements: Yet another grey area. In the SVCA letter dated Feb. 17, 2022, it confirms that there are wetlands on Lots 11, 12, 13 and 14 in the proposed Phase 4 development. On one hand, the SVCA requests that the “grading plan/site plan be amended to accommodate the wetland in its existing condition”. But on the other hand, the letter indicates that the SVCA “could not issue a permit for the proposed development in the wetland as it constitutes an interference with the wetland”. The SVCA letter of July 19, 2021 states:
“landowners will be encouraged to transfer ownership or control of the portion of the property designated “Environmental Hazard” to a public body or qualified organization to ensure long-term preservation and management of the natural features.”
But it is unclear whether or not the “landowner” being referred to is the developer or if it is each subsequent lot purchaser. If it is indeed the latter, would the homeowner still pay property taxes on the entire lot – or only the portion remaining after the transfer occurs? Would your Deed/Title have to be amended accordingly too and if so, at whose expense?
8. Septic Systems: Leaching beds have to be 900mm above the “high” groundwater levels (ie. those levels found in the Spring or after a heavy rainfall). Therefore, some homeowners may have to install a “raised” leaching bed in their yard to meet the septic tank guidelines.
9. Schools: The Bluewater District School Board wrote:
“… the owner(s) agree in the Subdivision Agreement to include in all Offers of Purchase and Sale a statement advising prospective purchasers that accommodation within a public school in the community is not guaranteed and students may be accommodated in temporary facilities; including but not limited to accommodation in a portable classroom, a “holding school”, or in an alternate school within or outside of the community” and “student busing is at discretion of the Student Transportation Service Consortium of Grey-Bruce”.
Going forward …
While I may not have been born-and-bred in Bruce County, I have lived here for 42 years – 37 of which I have been a taxpayer. When I moved here, Port Elgin was a 1-stoplight town with only basic services and shops. Not many large stores or franchises such as: Shoppers Drug Mart, Walmart, McDonalds and so on. The hardware store at the time was a little shop in the downtown core where Sunset Blinds is presently located. So, I have obviously witnessed a lot of changes in Saugeen Shores. I am certainly not against change, as long as it is for the betterment of our community and does not constitute more harm than good.
So, with that in mind, there must be other tracts of land more suitable for housing developments that:
- do not require large amounts of woodlands to be removed
- are presently linked (or can easily be linked) to the existing municipal services (ie. water and sewers)
- do not have wetland issues
- provide homeowners the option of having basements, swimming pools etc.
- do not create an unsafe environment for others in the community.
Another resident in our Miramichi Shores subdivision initiated an online petition to save the woodlands from housing development. Perhaps you have read it and signed it as hundreds have already done. The petition will not be available forever, so please consider signing it before it is forwarded to Council for their consideration. Here is a link to that petition: “Let’s Leave Something to Explore in Saugeen Shores”.
I ask myself, why would the Town consider approving a new street which is against their own “Subdivision and Site Plan Development Guide” limits of 150m per cul-de-sac? Is the tax revenue for these particular 14 lots worth more than the safety of the entire subdivision? Is the revenue worth more than preserving these significant woodlands … which by the way, is also supposed to be part of the Town’s own mandate? Is a housing development with 14 more septic tanks worth more than safe drinking water for all of Saugeen Shores? I suppose I, for one, will know the answer to these questions when the voting process is complete on this application.
In summary … I have done my own research and read report-upon-report. I have taken the time to provide you, my fellow residents, with some food-for-thought. This is one of my last opportunities to voice my own concerns. Remember, if all goes according to the Applicant’s expectations, then this will be your last opportunity to speak up on this issue too. The application is expected to be on the next Planning Department Agenda on August 15th. At that point, the control will be out of my hands and out of your hands and then directly into the hands of Saugeen Shores Council and Bruce County.
PLEASE voice your concerns BEFORE August 15th.
These are your contacts for doing so:
Mayor: Luke Charbonneau Deputy Mayor: Don Matheson Vice-Deputy Mayor: Mike Myatt Councillor – Southampton: John Divinski* Councillor – Southampton: Cheryl Grace Councillor – Port Elgin: Jami Smith Councillor – Port Elgin: Dianne (Mini) Jacques* Councillor – Saugeen: Dave Myette Councillor – Saugeen: Matt Carr
*new Council member since the original July, 2021 Planning Department Meeting
You can be directed to the Council Member of your choosing via the general telephone number for the Town Office at 519-832-2008 or the links above. Alternatively, you have the option of sending one email for all Council Members. Send the email to email@example.com but ensure that you clearly state you want your concern to be “part of the public record and be shared with all members of Council” so it will be forwarded to everyone.
My final thoughts … I think about safety and the well-being of others. I hope that they are of paramount importance to you too. If so, I implore you to please act accordingly as you live your lives on a daily basis. And I also ask you to consider how some of the things that matter most to you (or things which you may have begun to take for granted), could ultimately be affected by the application for “Miramichi Shores #S-2021-006”. Is it time to say “NO” to more housing development in Miramichi Shores subdivision and in doing so, save the significant woodland and also potentially save a life?