Bracebridge council has voted to ratify the decision made by the town’s Planning and Development Committee and approve amendments to the official plan and zoning by-law.

The decision was unanimously passed.

It allows the proposed Muskoka Royale College project to go forward. The 450-acre project is proposed to be built east of Stephens Bay.

The five-precinct school complex is proposed by Toronto area developer George Chen. He told the town on March 20th, 2019 the proposed school facility will feature a pool, arena, playing fields, multi-media and performance areas, research and resource facilities, modern, fully-equipped learning spaces with professional learning support, a staffed infirmary for primary health care, full culinary, cleaning and other support services, and robust teaching technology throughout. A summer camp is also included in the proposal.

The school has been described as a “legacy project” for Chen.

There were 10 delegations to council that happened before a decision was made.

The main point of contention from most of those that spoke was the need for an Ontario Wetland Evaluation System Study and an Economic Viability and Impact Study to be done. Others called for council to defer a vote on the proposal to allow for a third public meeting to be held. The town has already hosted meetings in February 2019 and October 2020 that allowed the public to get more information on the project and ask questions.

“It just doesn’t look like the right property for a big school complex,” President of the Stephens Bay Association Michael Hart said during his presentation. He told council that more needs to be done to look into the impact this development project will have on the environment. He specifically mentioned how the project will negatively affect some of the wildlife on the 443-acre plot.

“The community demand is high for these requests,” said the President and Director of the South Bracebridge Environmental Protection Group Inc. Michael Appleby. “The list of unanswered questions continues to mount.”

As a result of the delegations calling for it, council voted whether or not they deemed it necessary for Chen to have an Ontario Wetland Evaluation System Study and an Economic Viability and Impact Study. Both motions were voted down.

“We are the evaluators of the evaluation,” Bracebridge’s Mayor Graydon Smith said during the meeting. “We have taken much criticism, we will take more. That comes with the job.”

He said that this decision was made after proper due diligence was done. Smith added this wasn’t left “on the side of a desk until the 11th hour.”

“I don’t think we need to proceed further,” he said on any additional studies or work that is being asked for. Smith said that council was given enough information to make an educated decision.