Most voices opposed to the present proposal at Lower Talisman

A full slate of speakers filled the time available for public comment last Wednesday at a meeting on the Beaver Valley Development Group proposal.

The online meeting was for the public, but was not a “public meeting” in terms of the planning process. (Due to recent provincial changes, these are not required any more for subdivisions.)

“The main purpose of this meeting is to hear from the public,” Grey Highlands Councillor Paul Allen said at the outset of the meeting.

And hear councillors did – with a full three hours of comments that followed slightly over an hour of introduction. That included presentations from the County planner and from a consultant for the Beaver Valley Development Group.

There were 320 attendees at the meeting.


The plan as submitted is laid out in blocks, with the specific lot layout to be brought forward later if approved.

Grey County publicized the meeting, including giving notice to neighbours and others and placing signs on the property.

Grey Highlands is a commenting agency for subdivisions, on which Grey County makes the final decision.

The Deputy Mayor conveyed during the meeting that he had received messages from other members of county council that they were listening to the meeting.

County planner Scott Taylor called the rules around the development “complicated”, in that not only are there two official plans and zoning bylaws that apply – Grey Highlands and the County – the Niagara Escarpment Plan also comes into play, as well as the conservation authority.

Part of the land has been designated for growth by multiple agencies, he said as he reviewed the maps.

There is no timeline for a County decision yet, Mr. Taylor said. Public comments should be submitted by the end of June but there is no hard deadline, he said.

“Based on the volume of comments we have been receiving, it will take time to read through all the comments,” he said.

All comments will be summarized for county council before they make their decision on the application.

Mr. Taylor characterized the present stage as information gathering.


The consultant from the Planning Partnership, Arthur Grabowski characterised the developer’s vision as creating “a sustainable, eco-inspired and vibrant community” to create “housing, jobs, recreation, amenities”.

He said that the project would improve the area’s stormwater management, protect natural heritage features on the land and boost tourism and the local economy.

Recreation uses included added trails, a Bruce Trail visitor Centre, nature education centre, and river boardwalk.

On the BVDG list of public consultations were earlier meetings with a “Community Reference Group”, and also a meeting last fall with the Talisman resort owner.

Mr. Grabowski listed the studies done to support the application, calling them “very robust”.

At that time, Shane Burt of CNIB spoke, saying that BVDG had reached out to the organization because it wants to develop a barrier-free community.

“CNIB is excited to be in discussion with BVDG”, he said. Some of the non-developable area may be turned into “Canada’s first year-round inclusive leisure property”, he said, and there may also be a gift of land to CNIB.


Paul Woolner, whose family has been in the area for generations, said the proposed development was out of scale with its surroundings – especially the nearby village of Kimberley.

Alex Spiegel said he saw tax increases in the future, because of the burden of unknown costs for providing servicing.

John Willett of Shilvock Sideroad said that the Talisman Inn property should be considered at the same time. Saying yes to the present proposal without knowing what’s planned for the Talisman Inn property is like “writing a blank cheque,” he said.

Another resident questioned the completeness of the survey of natural species on the property, saying some had been missed. As well, some species now found on the property may be threatened in future, it was said, by changes to the wetlands and water from the concentration of buildings.

Another speaker said that Grey Highlands own Official Plan should be given weight as it directs development to settlement areas.

Jen McNeeley said that Paul Mondell, who has spoke on behalf of the company, has ties to Skyline Developments. Its experience is in resorts, not neighbourhoods, she said – “it’s not about housing”.

Matthew Webb spoke to support the development, which he said will renew a property that has been derelict for years. He also commented that Talisman when operating attracted higher traffic levels.

Many who spoke talked about the beauty of the valley, and how the landscape would be changed by the scale and intensity of the units planned.

Nick and Sue Smart of Grey Road 7 said the plan would be “turning a world class heritage site into a soulless subdivision”.

Another speaker said the development proposal came from a perspective of “nature as real estate” and encouraged a path forward that would build community.

Nick Steele spoke to support the proposed plan, saying that it came from an expert and competent group of developers.

Robert Walker of Wodehouse Court argued that the opposition was much more than NIMBY-ism. He raised the question of costs to the municipality, saying it was incumbent on council to “let taxpayers know the cost” of the development.


Before the public comment started, a consultant from the developers talked about the plans for blocks of open space and multi-unit housing at the site near the village of Kimberley.

Other speakers included the Grey Highlands planner Andrew Payne, along with the county planner. Mr. Payne said that 130 comments had already been received.

Grey County planner Scott Taylor gave details of what kinds of comments the county was looking for:

-the housing types that are developed

-recreation components

-layout of lots and road accesses


-local environmental knowledge

-anything missing from the application.

He said that people can ask questions as well as make comments.

The county deemed the application complete on May 25, 2024. The property to be developed is about 25 percent of the land area. An estimate of how the “blocks” proposed might be built out was 370 units.

Draft plan approval if granted would come with conditions for a subdivision agreement, the Grey county planner said.

These set out the parameters for the development. For example, that could include a low end and high end of a range of how many lots the residential area could have.

Deputy Mayor Dane Nielsen asked which policy would be the one followed if the plans of different agencies conflict.

The planner said policies are generally aligned between the bodies. The provincial policy statement is the guiding one, with which all others must conform. The Niagara Escarpment Plan would be the next, so the municipal plans need to conform with that.

“At each level down the chain, you get more detail,” he explained. “At the end of the day we’re going to need to seek conformity and consistency with all these documents.”

A development is tested against the policies in place as of the date of submission, or being deemed complete.

Grey Highlands planning manager Andrew Payne explained the application service providing a flowchart.

M.T. Fernandes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Flesherton Advance