Local residents win reprieve on Long Beach development

By Kirk Winter

“Run-off from golf courses is an environmental disaster,” Cameron-area resident Sylvia Keesmaat told Council, in view of a proposed golf course and resort planned for the Long Beach neighbourhood on Sturgeon Lake.

A large and disparate group of Cameron area residents presented their concerns to council on September 26 about a FLATO-backed golf course and resort planned for Sturgeon Lake. The loose coalition of cottagers, farmers and local business people won a temporary reprieve from the city when council decided that the application from FLATO Development Inc. to amend the zoning bylaw at Ranchers Road and Long Beach Road in Cameron needs to be referred back to staff until the review of public comments and the technical studies have been completed.

While a number of questionable and potentially controversial statements were made by deputants about the developer spearheading the project, the arguments of locals were probably best distilled by the final presenter, local farmer and author Sylvia Keesmaat.

Keesmaat questioned the need for the development, its impact on the climate crisis, the negative effect the development would have on groundwater, if any affordable housing would be made available, and whether it was wise to approve this development before the builder submitted all of their detailed drawings to council for all the land in the area FLATO bought.

Keesmaat began her deputation by questioning how the land slated to be developed had been labelled vacant land.

“This is viable farmland,” she said. “The land has been farmed and where there is good arable land it has been farmed well. It has also been grazed where the soil is thin.”

Keesmaat told council that the grazing of the land “had preserved the rare and at-risk species that live on this land. A developer might consider this land vacant but it is in fact habitable to many rare and at-risk species.”

She went on to suggest that there are two threats to viable life on earth: increasing temperature and loss of biodiversity.

“These lands are a crucial piece to maintaining biodiversity,” Keesmaat said. “There are 12 birds from the Ontario species-at-risk list that can be found on this property. Proposed portions of land the developer has promised to protect are too close to dwellings and roads to be able to support endangered species.”

Keesmaat was very concerned about the run-off from the proposed golf course.

“Run-off from golf courses is an environmental disaster,” Keesmaat said. “Pesticides and fertilizer will flow from the golf course into the lake and into neighbouring wells. Developers should not be exempt from protecting ground water and wells. Multiple studies have shown there is increased cancer levels in those who live close to golf courses.”

Keesmaat told council that FLATO’s plans for Long Beach Road sound and look an awful lot like a development near Innisfil called Friday Harbour. She urged council to look the resort up.

“The marina connected to that development has increased noise pollution on Lake Simcoe,” Keesmaat said. “The pressure of the resort has also spiked pollution levels so that Lake Simcoe will be a dead lake in a decade. Sturgeon Lake is much smaller and will not be resilient enough to stay healthy in the face of pollutants from the golf course and the proposed marina. This situation will not encourage tourism in our area.”

Keesmaat wondered if this development will do anything for the 2,800 people in the city who are currently on a waiting list for affordable housing.

“Short term rentals and seasonal homes outside urban boundaries raise home prices,” Keesmaat said. “This makes it difficult for our children and the elderly who want to stay in this city because they are unable to find affordable housing.”

Keesmaat concluded her deputation suggesting it was not wise for council to approve this development until FLATO has been forced to provide all the fine print of the primary development including the marina and golf course, and a detailed breakdown of their plans for the land they have acquired adjacent to this property.

“FLATO has bought land all the way up to Highway 121,” Keesmaat said. “There should be no approval before plans. Please send this re-zoning request back to staff.”

When the floor opened to questions, councillor Pat Warren wanted to talk more about water. Warren wondered if the issues at Cameron would involve both water quality and water quantity?

“The ground water is inadequate for the people who already live there,” Keesmaat said. “That is why FLATO wants to draw and treat the water from the lake, putting real pressure on that ecosystem.”

Keesmaat told Warren that there was potential that all water involved with the development could be “tainted” (by the runoff from the golf course and marina).

Keesmaat told council that at the next meeting she would be presenting a petition with 330 local residents names who oppose the FLATO development on Long Beach Road.

This issue is expected to return from staff sometime in late 2023.

1 Comment

  1. Ginny Colling says:

    Kudos to Sylvia Keesmaat for a powerful and well thought out presentation. Good to hear that council referred the request for a zoning by-law amendment to staff. All parts of the issue need a thorough review. We have to stop and think about the harms we are doing to the natural environment, including our farmland, with these kinds of developments.

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