The head of the Stephens Bay Road Association says his opposition to a proposed Chinese-Canadian private school isn’t motivated by race.

On Wednesday, MyMuskokaNow.com published an article regarding the project that’s bordered by Ecclestone Road on one side and Stephens Bay Road on the other in Bracebridge. The proposal is for an elementary and high school complex that would include live-in boarding for up to 1700 students.

Michael Hart outlined his group’s opposition on the project during an interview with MyMuskokaNow.com. The reasons included protecting wildlife, the large numbers of teenagers the school would bring to the area, and the fact that part of the development would be on wetlands.

His comments also included this quote:

“(It’s) Asian money coming in, so wealthy developers from Asia coming to set up a private school in Muskoka. Go build it somewhere else. Why would we want it here? We can’t imagine the infrastructure requirements for 1700 elementary and high school level students that come from halfway around the world.  You know, (they’re) not familiar with our culture, never mind our language. And they are going to be a tremendous drain on the town of Bracebridge core services.”

These comments sparked a significant backlash on social media. Today, Hart is clarifying his position in a statement emailed to MyMuskokaNow.com.

In it, Hart says that “as a permanent resident of Bracebridge and long-time listener to Moose FM, I would like to communicate in the strongest possible terms to your listeners and readers that I harbour no race based prejudicial feelings. I also feel that any attention devoted to this detracts from the issues that lay at the heart of the Muskoka Royale Development application.”

He goes on to say that he does not object to the development of a private school in Muskoka, but is concerned that the “environmental and species impact as documented in the Michalski & Nielsen reports from the development would be irreversible, once the three phases proposed are constructed on the Subject Land.”

Here is Michael Hart’s statement in its entirety:

“On Wednesday, February 27, 2019, www.mymuskokanow.com published select comments made in an interview I had with Moose FM reporter Doug Crosse on February 26th. Unfortunately, it has come to my attention that some of the Moose FM listeners and My Muskoka Now readers have construed these comments as negative and racially biased. Per my conversation this morning with Patrick Grapes, Cottage Country News Director, I forward this letter in an attempt to clarify these comments.

That said, please know that as a permanent resident of Bracebridge and long-time listener to Moose FM, I would like to communicate in the strongest possible terms to your listeners and readers that I harbour no race based prejudicial feelings. I also feel that any attention devoted to this detracts from the issues that lay at the heart of the Muskoka Royale Development application.

I do not object to the development of a private school in Muskoka, however the resulting environmental and species impact as documented in the Michalski & Nielsen reports from the development would be irreversible, once the three phases proposed are constructed on the Subject Land. The majority of the Stephens Bay Association membership oppose rezoning of the Subject Lands designated Environmental Protection Wetland One, given the degradation that would result from excavation of this environmentally sensitive habitat and resulting impact to the Stephens Bay watershed on Lake Muskoka. Impact from the development to the water in Stephens Bay could negatively affect the water quality at the public Kirby’s Beach and local property owners.

The Town of Bracebridge council and planning staff will have to determine the social and infrastructure impact to the community and town services. They will also want to debate the cost benefit analysis of the application.”

Regards, Michael