Province's hearing over controversial Langmaid's Island project ends

·3 min read

The public hearing over proposed developments for Langmaid’s Island has come to an end after 28 days of testimony, cross examination and arguments from parties on all sides of the contentious issue.

The Local Planning Appeal Tribunal’s proceedings ended on March 5 after its chair, Gregory Bishop, heard final statements from representatives of the project’s supporters and opponents. Over the course of a month, 16 witnesses spoke during the tribunal.

The tribunal’s official opponents include the Lake of Bays Association, Lake of Bays Heritage Foundation, the Town of Huntsville, the Township of Lake of Bays and Kelly Zytaruk, a Lake of Bays cottager living on South Portage Road, beside the island. He’s been protesting the development for over two years. Zytaruk had official party status and sat in on all meetings.

“This has dominated my life for the past year, weekends and evenings I’ve been spending studying and researching and talking to people,” Zytaruk said. “I’m 100 per cent hopeful that we’ll convince them.”

During his closing comments on March 5, Zytaruk said the tribunal shouldn’t get caught up in the minutiae of the policies around development and instead consider the bigger picture of how large-scale development could cause harm, an argument echoing the positions of the association and Heritage Foundation.

“This is the last island of its kind,” he said. “The island is in danger and should be protected.”

Langmaid’s Island Corp., the developers behind the project, filed three appeals to the tribunal in 2018. They want to build 32 seasonal homes on part of the 147 acres of undeveloped, uninhabited land of the island and two parking lots on South Portage Road.

Because of Langmaid’s Island’s biodiversity and undisturbed status, it’s listed in the Lake of Bays official plan as a natural heritage area, meaning there are development restrictions on the land.

In order to launch their development, Langmaid’s Island Corp. filed requests for amendments to the township’s official plan and development permit bylaw, zoning bylaws in Huntsville and submitted a draft plan of subdivision to the District of Muskoka.

The corporation filed their appeals to the tribunal alleging the three councils didn’t adopt the request amendments within the allotted deadlines.

Opponents of their application made several arguments during the hearing. On March 5, lawyer Harold Elston, representing the Lake of Bays Association and the Heritage Foundation, argued the developers bought the island in 2017 — for $9 million — “with full knowledge of the restrictions in place” and the expenditures “were at their own risk.”

“I think we brought a lot to it,” Zytaruk said. “I think we made some really good arguments.”

The tribunal didn’t say when it would publish its decision: when closing the final meeting on Friday, Bishop said they would release their final decision “when humanly possible.”

Zytaruk said the tribunal aims to process a case within 90 days to avoid a backlog in their system. In a statement published March 11, the Lake of Bays Association wrote it could take “as little as a few weeks or as long as a year” until they hear the decision.

Zahraa Hmood is a Local Journalism Reporter with the Parry Sound North Star and MuskokaRegion.com. LJI is funded by the Government of Canada

Zahraa Hmood, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com