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HomeNewsBracebridge council gives thumbs up to Fowler rezoning application

Bracebridge council gives thumbs up to Fowler rezoning application

While protesters made their voices heard outside the Bracebridge Municipal Office, inside council made their decision on the Fowler Construction rezoning application.

With only Coun. Andrew Struthers voting against the rezoning application, the proposed expansion of the Childs Pit/Quarry can now move forward on Bonnie Lake Rd.

Laura Pratt, representing the Muskoka Environmental Alliance (MEA), tells the newsroom they plan on appealing the decision to the Ontario Land Tribunal. She says starting on Oct. 13, they have 20 days to formally file an appeal. 

Brian Zeman, President of MHBC Planning, spoke on behalf of Fowler during the meeting. He didn’t respond to a request for comment on next steps. 

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Along with approving the rezoning application, council added two resolutions. One was to ask Fowler to establish a community liaison group. The other directed staff to prepare a summary of the comments received from the public about the application and submit them to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) for consideration when making their licensing decision.

Zeman told council Fowler would be open to the liaison group, adding that information regarding the application has been available online for “some time.” He didn’t expand further on when the group would be initiated. 

Prior to the council meeting, protestors gathered in front of the Bracebridge Municipal Office holding “No Muskoka Mega Quarry” signs. All of them eventually made their way into the council chambers. They were joined by two uniformed Bracebridge OPP officers who arrived at the town office shortly after 6 PM. 

Before council voted to approve the application and ratify the decision made at the town’s Oct. 5 Planning and Development Committee meeting, Struthers pointed out that at every meeting the proposed expansion has been discussed and new information has been brought forward but concerned residents.

At the start of council meeting, five delegations spoke out against the rezoning application. This follows individuals speaking out prior to the Aug. 31 council meeting where it was decided to send the rezoning application back to staff to ensure the concerned residents’ questions were addressed. 

“This town has never seen public engagement to this level,” Pratt said during her delegation. She said she’s frustrated that this is being pushed forward only days before the Oct. 24 municipal election. Pratt said that “no reasonable council member” can say approving the rezoning application is a good decision.

Pratt’s family owns the Bracebridge Golf Club, which is near where the proposed quarry expansion will be. She said during the council meeting the MEA represents 880 residents.

Many of those who spoke out against the proposed expansion said they already consider Bonnie Lake Rd. to be dangerous and in need of repair. Lesley Newman, who spoke on behalf of some of her neighbours, said they’re concerned about their safety if this rezoning application goes forward, especially if there’s an increase in truck traffic.

Cheryl Kelley, Director of Planning and Development, noted Bonnie Lake Rd. is looked after by the District of Muskoka. She told council staff received a letter from the district’s public works and engineering department saying they will be reviewing movement on the road and Hwy. 117 as well as collecting traffic volume and speed data.

Zeman pointed out that approval of the application would see no increase in existing truck traffic.

Larry Holditch, another concerned resident that spoke during the council meeting, said he’s concerned about the potential for lead poisoning. He added he’s also worried that any blasting done on the site could open a fissure in the rock, which could contaminate wells in the area.

It was noted by Zeman that the impact the operation could have on wells falls under the eyes of the MNRF under the Aggregate Resources Act license. He added that the operation doesn’t include anything related to lead. Zeman said the Ontario Water Resources Act states they have the legal responsibility to protect wells in the area adding, to his knowledge, there hasn’t been an aggregate operation that’s been confirmed to have contaminated a residential well.

He also explained the operation will use a closed-loop water system. That means all water used to clean aggregate will be recycled with Zeman adding that no chemicals will be involved in the process. 

One consistent complaint from delegations at all meetings regarding the proposed expansion has been the lack of communication. Kelley says that town staff follow the rules set out in the planning act “to the letter of the law” which states residents within 400 feet of the site are notified.

At the Planning and Development Committee meeting where the rezoning application was approved, Kelley noted it would, pending the appeal process, “take decades to use all of the property permitted.”

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