Transcribed Q&A's From The Community Environmental Consultation
Good morning everyone. Thank you so much for joining us on behalf of the IRTH team: Thaine Carter, Alex and Robin Daprato, Brian Daly, and me, Melanie Hazell, I'd like to welcome you to our second community consultation ZOOM meeting. Just some points of clarification before turning the meeting over to Scott Reynolds, our Senior Environmental Planner, whose with Ainley Graham and Associates. Marko Cekic, our planner from McIntosh Perry, presented the Environmental Impact Study (The EIS Report), Scott had prepared for our May 28th consultation, as Scott was unable to attend at the last minute. So, this will actually be the second time that we are sharing this information, not because there is anything new, but because we determined it would be helpful to give the community the opportunity to ask additional environmental specific questions directly to Scott Reynolds. We have two Scott’s on the call today, so I have to give last names, so we know which Scott we are referring to.
From May 19th on when our Website went live, we have encouraged the community to visit our website, to review all of our submission reports, including the EIS. These formal meetings are not the communities only opportunity to ask us questions. If anybody has questions, concerns, issues; please do call or email us directly. It should also be noted the municipality will be hosting an open-house in the coming months which will act as an additional forum for all community members to provide their views on the proposed development prior to the official public meeting which will take place. When the municipality shares these dates, we'll be sure to post them on our website.
We had originally allocated 30 minutes to this community consultation as it was originally intended as an add-on to May 29th. We planned on focusing exclusively on the environmental component of our OPA/ZBA submission. We’ve received a number of questions pertaining to other components of our submission, therefore, Scott Ferguson is back to facilitate a general Q&A, which we have extended by 30 minutes. Additional panelists, based on these additional questions, on the call, include: Jonathan Kearns, our architect of record, President of Kearns/Mancini Architects, Scott Reynolds, David Davidson from The Ainley Group and Associates, Alexander and me. Marko Cecik is on vacation. He has sent in answers for questions pertaining to Planning and Zoning in advance, which Scott Ferguson will read out during this meeting. We have enabled the Q&A which you'll find at the right-hand bottom of your screen, however, as in our last meeting priority will be given to questions which were sent in advance. Any questions which we are unable to get to by 11 a.m., will be answered and posted on our website following this meeting or in the next few days.
Final, and really critical point of clarification. The environment is of huge concern to the IRTH team. Our entire concept hinges on our love of nature and it's why over the past three years with Ainley Graham and Associates, so that we can get the most accurate, up-to-date information about the current conditions of all natural heritage features on the property. We s
share many of the same concerns highlighted within the questions that were submitted. It may appear, that our project is simply a hotel and spa development. The Hotel and Spa are the platform that we have carefully chosen for our primary objective which is to create and inspire a different way to connect with nature, spaces and people. Nature education and engagement is foundational to what we hope to offer to a wide and diverse range of guests. Thank you. Now over to you, Scott Reynolds.
Ok, thanks Melanie and thanks everybody for joining the session. I apologize for not being able to attend the last session on short notice due to some personal matters and unforeseen circumstances. So, I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of the IRTH team to go over the work we have completed to date on the property since 2017 and review the process that we undertook to establish our EIS and the conclusions and recommendations within our EIS Study with respect to the project. So, I’ll just run through essentially the same format that we have in our EIS with a little bit of summary information for each section. The information that I am going to present now will also feed into the Q&A’s that we have received and I can elaborate on that when we get to that section.
So, the first thing that I want to talk about is why did we do an EIS on the property. And, I think we can all agree that there are sensitive features: there's EP zoning, there is an ANSI on the property, as well as other features that needed to be characterized. So, when we set forth on this process we followed a process to obtain background information, we consulted with regulatory agencies to develop a program to characterize the site.
So the first step was we circulated Ministry of Natural Resources in Forestry (MNRF) to obtain any information that they have on the file. We took that information, along with information that we collected from background sources. So, we used available tools; such as the Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas, The Reptiles and Amphibians Atlas, as well as a Citizen Science project information that members that may be attending have provided information for including Inaturalist and Ebird. So we took that information and we developed a field program at the site based on what we anticipated being out there to characterize the vegetation communities, fish and wildlife, species at risk, wetland communities, and the whole host of natural components. So what I want to do is give a bit of an overview of the existing conditions and then sort of discuss our field surveys that we completed out there.
The property is a mix of deciduous and coniferous forest. Coniferous woodland plantation as well as there's a wetland located in the middle of the property. The wetland near the midpoint of the property is the Lost Lake swamp, it is a non provincially significant wetland, it was evaluated by the Ministry of Natural Resources and it was determined to be non significant because of the proximity to Lake Ontario it is actually considered a coastal wetland, but it is not significant.
So the southern portion of the property fronting County Road 8 is indicative of anthropogenic influence which is because of the plantations and existing trail network that extends off County Road 8 there has been a level of human disturbance at the south end. As you transition north there's cleared fields as you go near to the midpoint of the property. When we were out in 2017 our initial field investigations, the two fields to the south were graminoid, open meadow grass fields with a a small percentage of forbs mixed in and then as as we moved towards the midpoint of the property around the wetland there is a field to the north and that was a little bit wetter and and had a higher percentage of forbs out there. One thing that we did note was that there was an abundance of noxious plants including wild parsnip and poison ivy that were in those fields and I know one of the things that the IRTH team identified as a priority was to remove those invasive species with the efforts to retain those fields in a natural state. So in 2018 and 2019 those fields were actually tilled in an effort to remove those invasive species.
At the midpoint of the property, if everyone has seen on an aerial image, the eastern portion of the Lost Lake swamp extends onto the subject property. The area that it extends onto the property, is approximately 1 hectare out of an overall wetland land size of 24 hectares and the wetland outlets through a small watercourse that drains to the southeast with eventual connection to Lake Ontario. From the south, there is an escarpment feature that runs along the south boundary and extends to the north and it is designated as EP in the Prince Edward County zoning bylaw. This EP connects with the Lost Lake swamp and then further north with an escarpment as it extends across Cressy Point. On top of the plateau to the west of this escarpment, this is also a remnant of previous agricultural disturbances as previously cleared, however, is transitioning back to a woodland state.
There is an ANSI on the property which is a provincially significant ANSI. It is the Lost Lake Basin and escarpment forest and if folks have reviewed the mapping when the ANSI boundaries were developed, it was fairly clear that they worked around the previously cleared agricultural field. As you can see the East and West boundaries of the ANSI are generally similar to the property boundary for the IRTH proposal. As you move north the ANSI ties in with the Lost Lake swamp and then transitions around the cleared field to the North and then actually comes back to the South on the East Side to cover off those forest blocks.
I think it's important to note and maybe provide a little bit of information on what ANSI is and the form and function of it. So that ANSI is provincially designated, which means that it is subject to the provincial policy statement. It extends across Cressy Point and is approximately 240 hectares in size. The key considerations to that ANSI are the Lost Lake Basin and the interior escarpment forest. One of the things to note, is that the northern portion of the ANSI north of Lost Lake is basically a contiguous forest block as it extends north towards the northern shore of Cressey Point. There is another ANSI that is located in proximity, but not on the subject property and that's the Cape Vessy escarpment cliffs and that is regionally significant ANSI and the difference being that the regionally significant ANSI is not subject to the provincial policy statement, however, is still protected and subject to The County’s Official Plan documents. So when we went through our study, we considered both of these ANSI’s and I know some of the public feedback that we received there were some questions around the impacts to these ANSI and that kind of thing, so once I get to the finding section I can elaborate a little bit in terms of the information that we used to drive our assessment of impacts from the proposed development.
Some of the field surveys that we completed at the site were rigorous across all aspects based on the conditions on the site; that we had open field grassland areas, we had mature forest, we had a wetland complex, and so there are factors that come into play in terms of vegetation, migratory breeding birds, there's wetland birds, there’s grassland birds, whippoorwills, amphibians and bats,
so we completed a detail program including we mapped vegetation communities at the site per the ecological land classification in southern Ontario,
we completed breeding bird surveys (11 Point Count locations) over three different survey events on the property,
we completed audible playback surveys for wetland birds at three locations for two survey events
grassland birds: we conducted three surveys in 2017 at four point camp locations in the field areas
whippoorwill surveys - we completed four surveys. There were nocturnal surveys in accordance with the lunar cycle those were completed in 2018 as a result of feedback from MNRF on the project
in amphibians surveys we completed three visits at three locations in 2017
with respect to bats, which are species at risk bats and are becoming something that is more of a consideration now. So, we actually completed a multi-step process to evaluate for that which included the first step being a random plot analysis to confirm whether there was an appropriate snag density at the site to support habitats and based on that we then evaluated the footprint of the development and looked for candidate snag trees within the development footprint to determine whether there was any suitable habitats.
I should also mention that we evaluated a fish and fish habitat while we were out there as well, so the tributary that outlets from Lost Lake we evaluated in 2017. We actually electro fished that channel and evaluated the fisheries community there and captured some cool water vap fish. MNRF didn't have much information, so in water working restrictions would be subject to the most restrictive window which is the cold water time window only permits from water works from July 1st October 14th
So, the findings of our work. I guess I'll start with perhaps the big one that people are interested in and that species at risk on the property. So with respect to our field surveys they were tailored and were specific surveys per MNRF guidance to determine the presence or absence of species on the property. So, as one of the questions noted, provided a list of species at risk on the property: just a bit of a background as to how we drilled that down. In our EIS report we started with a larger list and then narrowed that down, so the process that we follow is we obtain a species list from a regional perspective, so what species could be there, may be there, and then we evaluate the habitat preferences of those species along with the habitat on the subject property including our field surveys. So based on that, we were able to shrink that list down to six species that we anticipate we need to manage as they may have potential impacts as we go through. It's part of our EIS we offer mitigation measures to limit potential impacts based on the development as well as elaborate on the approvals process to be able to proceed. So the species that we identified include butternut, on the escarpment feature we noted a couple butternut trees there. So, we actually completed a detailed butternut health assessment. Our team is qualified butternut health assessors and two of those trees came back as non-returnable indicating that they're not afforded protection under the species at risk act because the canker has already taken them to a state of decline that they're not they're not savable. One of the trees was retainable and is not anticipated to be within 25 meters of the proposed development, so it doesn't require any further approvals or permitting. Now, one of the things we're going to do is if through the planning process we're going to evaluate impacts to that tree and if works do end up occurring within 25 meters then we'll follow the approvals process which involves a notice of activity under regulation 242, as well as listen to some compensation planting to potentially offset any harm that may come to that tree. It’s not anticipated that that tree is going to be removed, but any work that's within 25 metres needs to be addressed.
In the southern portion of the field of the site, we did observe some grassland birds in our original surveys as well as noted that the vegetation communities in those fields as mentioned before had a high percentage of wild parsnip. I know one of the aspects that the IRTH team is committed to through obtaining other team members is to restore those field areas to native grassland plant communities and I know that they have obtained the services of a native planting specialists that is assisting in developmenting a planting plan for those field areas as well as they've also obtain the services of a registered professional forester to assess and help with the health of forest on the property.
With respect to the wetland birds, we’ve evaluated the development footprint in the fields and we have submitted our report to the Ministry of Environment Conservation and Parks who is the governing authority for species at risk and is currently under review and they will determine that the permitting requirements, if any, for the development there and it if a permit is required then that will be an overall benefit permit, so that the IRTH Team will then demonstrate that they can provide an overall benefit to those species prior to the permit being issued.
With respect to the wetland, it is coastal wetland but it's not a significant wetland, so we've established setbacks associated with that wetland feature and those will be confirmed with Quinte Conservation Authority prior to any work happening they will need to be on board and providing feedback there. The wetland also is proposed to have a boardwalk on the midpoint of the eastern tip of the wetland. So, one of the aspects that we looked at with respect to the boardwalk, and this was one of the questions as well, is that we consulted with the regulatory authorities including MNRF and Quinte Conservation regarding this boardwalk to confirm whether they would have any issues or concerns or guidance and MNRF provided some feedback noting that they they generally don't have any concerns with boardwalks provided that suitable mitigation measures can be put in place which includes timing windows to avoid sensitive periods for amphibians and breeding birds, low-impact construction, which is something that I think the IRTH team is committed to that they're going to minimize the footprint of that boardwalk and finalize the location of it in a suitable place so that it's the least disruptive to that wetland feature. Near the eastern boundary the area is fairly densely vegetated with only small areas of open water which provides the best scenarios for a boardwalk and the least amount of disturbance. One of the other aspects is that the boardwalk should be constructed so that it’s low maintenance, so that you don’t have to go back in there routinely and maintain it and disrupt that natural environment. The boardward is in the EP area, but it is in keeping with the Prince Edward County zoning bylaw that boardwalks are permitted uses as part of the EP.
So, ANSI’s are the other big item on the property and are something that we evaluated and we reviewed. The ANSI itself, and I am speaking about the Lost Lake ANSI, as it’s the one that really pertains to the development, as I mentioned follows the eastern and western property boundaries and it should be noted that the development is not within the ANSI itself, however is within the adjacent lands which is 120 metre buffer that the PPS aligns around a provincially significant ANSI. So one of the things is that the EIS needs to demonstrate no negative impact on the ANSI from the proposed development. So, a few of the things that we looked were: what is the density of the development within this buffer area, what's the landform that is going to be disturbed, the proximity to it, and is it going to actually interfere with the form and function of the ANSI that established the significance of that feature to begin with. So at the closest point, the proposed development is approximately 25 meters based on the site plan with the western portion of the main complex extending to approximately 50 meters. Those aspects, as you move north their low density cabins that are spread out with a small footprint and they're also contained within the existing field area which is something that we considered as part of our assessment. The fringe area of the ANSI is maintained; there will be no vegetation clearing along the eastern boundary of the ANSI associated with the development, as well as for the hotel complex as most of it will be contained within the existing agricultural fields. One of the other things that we considered was the ANSI site report that we received from the MNRF; one of the things about provincially significant ANSI’s is that they demonstrate a high degree of significance on a regional scale and so one of the things that the ANSI report actually noted and it's not to downplay this ANSI as it is significant, but they did know that there is remnants of a previous disturbance and cutting through the ANSI, there is existing trail networks that are provided and there is another larger ANSI, the Greenpoint Escarpment Forest that is considered to be more representative of interior escarpment forest habitat in Prince Edward County. One of the other things that I just want to comment on is the is the escarpment future on the south portion of the property. In the the zoning bylaw, this escarpment feature is EP and is subject to an environmental evaluation, however, this pertains more so to a slope stability and erosion and sediment control (the stability of the slope in general). I know that the IRTH team has completed a stand alone study in that regard to cover that off and that’s been presented on our report.
So, that’s a bit of a summary of the findings, existing conditions and I just want to elaborate that we have provided in our report in detail some feedback with respect to the potential impact as well as mitigation measures. We have provided a range of mitigation with respect to the erosion and sediment control to be completed at the site during construction which ranges everything from setbacks, to soakfence that will be implemented, to in water working, restrictions for construction vehicles and actually for all vehicles on the site there will be restrictions with respect to fueling locations as these won’t be able to happen within 30 meters of the wetland features. Any vegetation that is removed, which i think there has been some vegetation removed and there may be a little bit more to be completed. Any more should respect the breeding bird window which is April-August generally. With respect to the Lost Lake swamp, there will be setbacks for the development and there will be some mitigation proposed with the timing of the development and limits to any impacts to features there. For species at risk, there will be a buffer around the retainable butternut tree, the grassland birds habitat intent will be to restore to the native grassland habitat for those species. With respect to the ANSI’s, there will be no development within the ANSI’s, It is generally limited development within the buffer of the ANSI and it maintains the habitat. One of the important things to note about the property is there will be people accessing property and I know one of the concerns was with the number of people accessing the property and perhaps unrestricted access to the ANSI and the wetland features. So, we thought about that as part of our assessment and one of the things that the IRTH team is proposing is that the access to those features will be for guided groups only. So, the intent at this point, is to not have free reign of people just accessing the property, going wherever they want, there will be controlled access to those features and another note about that is that with the ANSI generally being on adjacent properties, people will not be able to access the ANSI if they stay on private property of the subject proposal.
So that's a little bit of our rationale in terms of our impact assessment and I think it's important to know that this is our assessment and there are checks and balances in place to ensure that it proceeds as part of the proper planning process. So, it is anticipated that the county is going to have an environmental consultant peer-review our report to offer comments/feedback, any recommendations will need to be thought about and incorporated into our assessment and the overall site plan. County Planning will have comments, Quinte Conservation Authority will also have comments as well as the Ministry of Environment Conservation and Parks with respect to species at risk in terms of permitting, and approvals. So there are next steps associated with the EIS and factors that still need to be considered and worked through prior to anything moving forward. So that’s a little bit of a long-winded overview of the EIS and hopefully that provides some context with respect to the questions as well, but I think that concludes the initial portion and if we can work through some of the specific questions that we received.
Thank you very much Scott Reynolds. It is Scott Ferguson, here. Good morning everybody and hello again to those of you who met me in our last consultation. I’m an independent professional facilitator, I have 30 years of experience in leading community consultations including in Prince Edward County. We have received the questions and a couple of comments and I'm going to lay out the guidelines as to how I am going to do this most efficiently.
First of all the questions we have received along the lines of “what is a consultation” and “is this a consultation, or this does not appear to be a consultation”. I thought that was a very fair question. In my experience there are three elements of a consultation: two are mandatory and one is optional. A mandatory element is the community provides input to the project. Another mandatory element is that the project provides oral responses to the concerns raised in the community such as what you were hearing in Mr. Reynold’s speech and in the Q&A section. Those two are mandatory. The optional one is that the sponsors actually adjust the project based on the feedback and input they received. And, we heard evidence in the last session, that that has indeed taken place with IRTH. So, I am fully satisfied that what you are experiencing in both of these two consultations I am a part of and the continuous consultation that Melanie described before the session meets all of the elements of a healthy Community consultation.
In the interest of time we are using the ZOOM format again, because of the pandemic, it’s not perfect. We are going to steal an idea from Parliament where we are going to ask answers to be approximately 30 seconds each. Where, I believe, Mr. Reynolds, you addressed several of the answers in your presentation. I'm going to read the questions anyway so the people know that we got the questions. When that occurs, if you could just tell us in one sentence/remind us what the answer was. You don’t have to repeat the explanation just say “The Butternut trees aren’t recoverable” or “the tree we are protecting is more than 25 metres from the building” or “the area in question is not on the property, etc.” And I will launch right in.
QUESTION 1: What are the specific differences in environmental impact on flora, wildlife and water between building a single family dwelling versus the proposed IRTH
development on the property?
Answer from Marko, IRTH’s planner: “It‘s tough to compare a single family dwelling without the defined size, scope and scale stipulated. The current potential plan permits uses, not limited to and including, are: agricultural, farm, equestrian centre, forestry and reforestation, kennel, wayside pit and wayside quarry, farm winery, etc. Owner’s of the properties are permitted to use up to 10% of maximum lot coverage for all buildings and structures. The IRTH development is one half if 1%. So you are allowed 10% this is .5%.
SCOTT FERGUSON: Section 5.2.2 of the EIS report notes that we have a new Draft OP; notes that the subject property is within a Natural Core Area; and notes that the Draft OP provides an extensive list of policies pertaining to the various natural features that are on the subject property. And yet, the EIS report states that it “focuses on the current Official Plan, and does not provide an assessment of impacts pertaining to the Draft Official Plan”. The fact that the EIS report ignores the Draft OP policies is a remarkable deficiency. Do you agree?
SCOTT REYNOLDS: So yes, with respect to our EIS, we did focus on our current official plan as the draft OP is not currently in effect. Now, one of the things to know is that our EIS was completed per the current provincial policy statement, so some of the features of the draft OP are reflected in that current provincial policy statement, so we did factor in our studies with respect to species at risk, wetlands, fishing habitat, wildlife, ANSI’s in accordance with that current PPS that may be perceived as being lacking in the current OP, so those features have been included in our study.
SCOTT FERGUSON: Our Draft OP requires that with regard to significant ANSIs, fish habitat and coastal wetlands, that the development on “adjacent lands” have no adverse impacts on the natural environmental features; adjacent lands being defined using MNRFs Natural Heritage Reference Manual: example is 120 meters for the significant Life-Science ANSI. Are you claiming in your EIS report that the proposed commercial development comprised of the hotel buildings, cabin buildings, vehicle access routes, parking lots and wastewater treatment system, being wholly or partially within adjacent lands, will not have any such adverse impacts?
SCOTT REYNOLDS: Ok, so I provided our rationale in my summary with respect to how we came up with our conclusions and the question is completely accurate in that the natural heritage reference manual does identify 120 meter buffer for adjacent lands and that is what we evaluated as part of our review with respect to the ANSI’s. We evaluated components such as fish habitat, we evaluated impacts to the wetland (it is a coastal wetland but it is not significant, which is is an important distinction in terms of the PPS), we've evaluated impacts overall to the Lost Lake Basin and escarpment forest ANSI, as well as we provided comment in our report about the Cape Vessey ANSI, south of the property. Based on the sensitivities of the site that we knew at the onset, we completed the detailed and comprehensive field investigations to come up with our assessment and that’s how we arrived at our conclusions.
SCOTT FERGUSON: So, any such adverse impacts?
SCOTT REYNOLDS: From the proposed development, we've offered mitigation to limit potential impacts on the environment, yes.
SCOTT FERGUSON: Section 5.2.2 of the EIS shows that you have reviewed the Draft OP. Section 8.0 of the Draft OP pertains to our Natural Heritage System; section 8.6.2 provides policies for the Natural Core Areas. Section 8.6.2(d) says that an OPA that would enable commercial development within a Natural Core Area is not permitted. The IRTH team has applied for an OPA to enable commercial development within the “Cape Vessey” Natural Core Area. The IRTH team’s request for OPA does not conform with our Draft OP. Do you agree?
I think you just addressed part of that but I will let you comment.
SCOTT REYNOLDS. I think there's a similar theme to some of these questions and I think that Marko has also offered some feedback that the terminology of conformance is perhaps not necessarily accurate as the draft OP is not currently in effect. We completed our work in terms of the current Official Plan and the PPS.
SCOTT FERGUSON: As noted in your Environmental Impact Study (EIS) many of the structures associated with the project, including the hotel, pools, pathway to the
escarpment and several guest cabins are located within 120 metres of the Lost Lake Basin and Escarpment Forest Provincial ANSI. However, based on your diagram entitled “Environmental Restrictions” on your homepage these structures are located nowhere near an ANSI. Assuming that the EIS is correct, it appears that the ANSI is in fact much larger than is currently shown in this diagram. Please explain the discrepancy between the EIS and the diagram. If the diagram is incorrect can you please provide a revised diagram on your website showing the exact location of this ANSI in relation to the subject property and the project components.Please explain the discrepancy between the EIS and the diagram. If the diagram is incorrect can you please provide a revised diagram on your website showing the exact location of this ANSI in relation to the subject property and the project components.
SCOTT REYNOLDS: Okay, we did take a look at the the environmental restrictions on the webpage and compared it to our EIS and the ANSI boundaries and they are reflective/consistent and there is a 120 meter setback that is shown on the environmental restrictions page that we looked at, so the line work between the two documents is consistent in what we reviewed.
SCOTT FERGUSON: So, there is no inconsistency?
SCOTT REYNOLDS: We could not find one, no.
SCOTT FERGSON: Thank you. In your EIS you state that: “impacts om the Cape Vessey Escarpment, cliffs, and coastal wetland ANSI are not anticipated as a result of the undertaking”. There is nothing in the EIS about impacts to this ANSI, although expected impacts would include disruption to resident wildlife, picnics in the ANSI and refuse left behind at the site. How and where have you considered the negative impact of tourism in this ANSI that will be one of the many unfortunate consequences of locating your resort so close to two ANSI’s?
SCOTT REYNOLDS: Okay, so this question refers to the Cape Vessey escarpment cliffs and coastal wetland ANSI which is actually located south of the property, on the South Shore, of Cressy Point and is not in proximity to the development. So, this property is not part of the development proposal, so people will not have access to that ANSI through accessing the site.
ALEX DAPRATO: There is the second point to that, though, in terms of considering any negative impact on the ANSI we do have onsite.
SCOTT REYNOLDS: Okay, yeah and I think that goes back to what I was mentioning before that we did evaluate the ANSI and I know that the IRTH team is cognizant to the sensitivity of those features which is reflective in their approach to only offer guided tours through those features. That exercises an element of control over how people use the property and minimizes the risk of impacts. One of the other things that I may not have been totally clear about is that there is an existing trail network on the property through previous uses and the intent of the development is to utilize that existing trail network, so in the adjacent land it’s beneficial and works well to minimize disturbance to use those existing networks.
MELANIE HAZELL: And can I clarify that those trails predate us getting this property.
SCOTT FERGUSON: The two ANSIs in and near the project site are considered by the MNRF as being among the best examples of the dominant vegetation/landform features occurring within Site District E-5. Furthermore, the MNRF consider land-use zoning controls are important to protecting ANSIs: “Land-use zoning through zoning by-laws or official plans must recognize Provincially Significant ANSIs (as required by policy statements under the Planning Act), and may be a valuable tool in helping to protect the Regionally Significant ANSIs and other significant sites. Conservation easements and landowner agreements may be another means of protection. . .” The current land-use zoning for this Property is conducive to protecting Significant Sites including Lost Lake Basin and Escarpment Forest Provincial ANSI, Cape Vessey Escarpment Cliffs, and coastal wetland ANSI and the EPA, in only permitting development on a small-scale. The current land-use zoning designation also ensures that these significant sites remain in the hands of private landowners as it is thought that private ownership is most conducive to protecting these sites. The Irth application for re-zoning to tourist/commercial undermines the spirit and intent of the County’s zoning bylaw to protect ANSIs and other environmentally-sensitive areas. How in your view can a large-scale development that includes many structures spread out over a large area, parking lots, driveways, boardwalks, increased tourism, etc. possibly protect these significant sites and other environmentally-protected areas in the same way that the current zoning can (and does)?
SCOTT FERGUSON: There is a response here from Marko: “As mentioned before the EP lands designation and zoning is not changing. The EIS demonstrates the proposed development does not negatively impact natural features on site. In regards to the potential permitted uses of the current zoning highlighted before, as indicated there are many and without details on an alternate proposal it is difficult to make a comparison.”
Any comments from the team present to that issue?
ALEX DAPRATO: I think one of the big things here is going back to the first point is permitted use at the moment. We can have structures that take up 10% of the property within RU2 designation in place of the moment and our proposed development in size and scale is half a percent of the total land use and within that half percent the building forms themselves we're trying to build as sustainably as possible. We're looking at green roof on top of as many of the spaces as we can, which is going to reclaim space that is taken by the building to be another form of vegetation. So, we're trying our best to make sure that there's going to be as limited impact as possible with focusing most of the development at the front portion of the property as far away from the ANSI as we can get.
SCOTT FERGUSON: process check here: we have about 12 minutes scheduled and we still have quite a few questions, so I am going to propose that we go for an extra 15 minutes and then we will check where we are at that point. I want to do justice to all of our material here.
Next question: a large circular raised timber walkway 100 metres in diameter is proposed to be constructed, a relatively large portion of which is located directly over Lost Lake. There are many reasons to be concerned about the location of this walkway. We are unable to find a report that discusses the potential environmental impacts in the process of constructing this structure. If there is such a report do you have any plans to provide this report to the public?
SCOTT REYNOLDS: Okay, so I alluded to this when I did my spiel at the start. We consulted with MNRF with respect to acceptability of boardwalk features and concluded that they are generally acceptable provided that there are mitigation measures that can be put in place and we identified those mitigation measures in section 8.1.5 of our EIS and it should be noted as well that the final placement of the boardwalk is going to have to be reviewed by Quinte Conservation Authority and work through any requirements that they may have as well. So their feedback to us was that we could work together to establish a suitable location and minimize impacts to the extent possible.
SCOTT FERGUSON: According to the EIS, the MNRF provided information about 14 species at risk in and near the project site, but based on field surveys, species-specific habitat preferences, the existing on-site vegetation and site conditions you narrowed this list down to 6 species as follows: Butternut trees (according to your report, 2 of the 3 Butternut on the property will be removed), Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, Eastern Whip-poor-will, Black Tern and Eastern Wood Pewee. And, there it seems reasonable to conclude that these birds will completely abandon the project site, if not during construction then after the tourists arrive. What are your thoughts about constructing a tourist-commercial project in habitat where such a large number of species at risk are found?
SCOTT REYNOLDS: I did elaborate as to how we arrived at that that list of species in our report, I'll speak my thoughts; that we have evaluated the development proposal in terms of impacts to those species and we are consulting with the Ministry of Environment Conservation & Parks in terms of our permitting and approvals to requirements and we have also proposed mitigation measures for the site to limit impacts to those species which includes setbacks and the development footprint and there are commitments from the team to restore areas to habitats better than what currently exists. Those features all come into play with respect to those species at risk.
SCOTT FERGUSON: If I understood correctly, the reason you are removing those butternut trees is because they are not savable because there is too much disease.
SCOTT REYNOLDS: They actually are not within the development footprint, but two of three are considered to be non-retainable based on the state of the current decline. So, they are permitted to be removed under the current MECP process, if needed.
SCOTT FERGUSON: The MNRF identified the presence of Eastern Musk Turtle and the Snapping Turtle, both of which are both Species of Concern in the general location of your property. Can you please provide documentation of your field surveys and on site conditions including the existing on-site vegetation that in your view would make it impossible for these two turtle species to inhabit your site?
SCOTT REYNOLDS: During our evaluation of the site, we actually conducted field investigations that included amphibian and reptile surveys and our EIS actually notes that these species had potential to be located in the Lost Lake wetland, so I would not say that there was an impossibility that these species could occur on the site, just that the development will be completed such that there is not anticipated to be an impact study species in it. It should be noted that under Ontario Species at Risk Legislation that special concern species are not afforded the same level of protection as endangered or threatened species in that their habitat
or the individuals are not protected. However, it's not the intent of the development and not in any intent of our mitigation to ignore any of that stuff it's just that the way that the act presents their protection status.
SCOTT FERGUSON: IRTH has described a development whose overarching prinicple is one of being environmentally sensitive to the area and positive for the landscape, however the design
concept counters that and suggests build options that are not sustainable, specifically; given its CO2 production intensity....how do you define the use of concrete as an environmentally friendly building material?
JONATHAN KEARNS: I think I can answer that one Scott. We are aware that concrete is a significant emitter of greenhouse gases in it’s production and that’s why we are using very very little of that material. So, consistent with our approach to build environmentally friendly buildings of passive house standard and make this low-carbon in it’s construction and low-carbon in it’s operation, our structures will be mostly of wood construction and of rammed earth wall construction. Rammed earth is predominantly local material either found on site or found locally using Portland cement in less than 10% of it’s constituent compostion. So, it’s a very durable, low energy, high insulation value, airtight method of building and we think it's ideally suited to this low-rise project having a structure that is extremely energy efficient.
ALEX DAPRATO: I just want to note to that this is a big concern for us as well, as we work through the next phase if everything was to be approved as we get into detailed design development with our larger team and this is very much at the forefront of our concerns and some of the priorities that we've listed out for everybody. In thinking through what other building materials can we use that are low impact, what can we give back in certain situations to environments to offset what it is we’ve taken. So, for instance, we're looking at getting a bunch of timber in from specific location, we're looking at maybe programs where our IRTH team can go out to that site to replant trees and give a bit of reciprocity back for some of the stuff that we’ve taken. But this is very much a concern that is top of mind for us and something that we are dedicated to making sure we have the lowest impact possible.
SCOTT FERGUSON: What is the material source for the rammed earth structures, the eastern border berm and the cabin berms and what is the volumetric calculation of soil needs for the rammed earth structures, green roofs and berms? Are you stripping material off the site for berming and building or trucking it in? How do you consider either stripping the soil off the land and/or introducing tons of off-site material for the stated purposes as environmentally friendly?
JONATHAN KEARNS: Well, first of all, our principle approach is cut & fill. In other words, to the extent that we can use excavation material that we dig to actually construct we will reuse that material for berms and/or rammed earth construction. Typically, a rammed earth wall uses the earth that is found on site. It may be added to some aggravates or some other better suited earth as we have to test that earth as we excavate it. We need to use earth with a really low clay content, less than 30%, but we only use 3-9% of cement binding agent. So, it’s with very low concrete composition. If we need to we may need to import a little bit of fill, but our objective is neither to export fill nor import fill. There might have to be some minor adjusting to that as we proceed, probably no more than in a typical house construction.
SCOTT FERGUSON: If you are truly concerned about the environment, as you have professed to be, why have you inflicted so much damage on the land without having your application for rezoning approved yet? Your preliminary work has caused the wetland water level to drop by 2 feet, greatly affecting wildlife already - there are no frogs this year! - destroyed a small forest, damaged neighbouring property, etc. and all of that without having the go ahead for your project.
Have you considered that your application could be denied and all the damage will be unfixable?
If you haven't considered that your application could be denied, why? Have you been promised something?
Please help me understand your reasoning to knowingly purchase the land that included so much environmentally significant escarpment and wetland, when your intention, right from the start, was to seek rezoning to develop, and thus diminish and destroy important County environment.
How do you propose to monitor your guests to ensure they comply with the rules and stay on the paths?
How do you propose to prevent poaching of wildlife (eg. turtles and reptiles, plants and vegetation) and to prevent guests from absconding with natural features on the landscape (stones, plant roots, bird and reptile nests and eggs, fish)?
MELANIE HAZELL: So, I think we need to, as you said there are lots of questions that have been asked, so we need to break these down.
So, “have you considered that your application could be denied and all the damage will be unfixable?” Absolutely. We have considered the application can be denied, we recognize that there is no certainty whatsoever and that has been at the forefront of our thinking right from the beginning. The majority of work that's been done to date is part of a multi-year land restoration program and is well within our rights to continue that program throughout this process. When we say “multi-year,” we are using the lens of several generations. We will continue to work from a place of reciprocity for what has been and will be taken; for instance the shrubs and trees which have been cut down we are going to replace those with native trees and as we mentioned in our last meeting we plan to reforest a portion of the backfield.
“If you haven't considered that your application could be denied, why? Have you been promised something?” Absolutely, we have not been promised anything. We have gone through the prescribed process that any other proponent would. We worked with the municipality to ensure that we met all the criteria for this submission.
“Please help me understand your reasoning to knowingly purchase land that included so much environmentally significant escarpment and wetland, when your intention, right from the start, was to seek rezoning to develop, and thus diminish and destroy this important County environment.” As previously indicated, we are not rezoning the EP or the ANSI land, and based on the evaluation of the EIS our proposal works within the current parameters of these designations. If you were with us for the last meeting, you would have heard Alex talk about the beauty of this land and how attracted we were and we thought that this was a property that could be showcased so beautifully and help educate people about land, like ANSI and EP Land.
ALEX DAPRATO: I think that it’s important to note that over the last three years as Scott was working through the EIS, we were working very closely at shifting and positioning where things were as we were obtaining information from Scott, regarding where there were certain sensitivities on site. So, we knew we were purchasing something that had those sensitivities which is why we wanted to activate Scott to work through those EIS studies, we understood what the concerns and the sensitivities were on site and we could craft something that blanketed work with those features and even programmatically the exploration of all of the species at risk and all of vegetation was really exciting for us because this is an opportunity to further refine how we have people interact with these features safely, sustainably, and then how we can also look to enhance them with further plantings, further vegetations, that we contribute to the site. I think going back to that first question: it's always a little difficult with any kind of development from building a new house out in the country, maybe some of you have done that yourself, things tend to look worse off as you begin, but for us we keep that end goal in mind of creating as much life and abundance and biodiversity as possible as we work through all of these stages. So there's very much a continued plan, that's multi-year, some of the work you've seen here (step 1 and 2) of a multiple step program, so it’s important to note that.
SCOTT FERGUSON: So, Melanie, maybe just finish off: how will you monitor your guests to make sure they play by the rules, follow the rules, and don’t poach.
MELANIE HAZELL: So, we did address this in our previous meeting. Through education, having a manicured trail network, wayfinding, offering guided walks, and having staff on site 24/7 who can reinforce the messaging. We will be keeping an eye out and interacting with organizations that have an educational nature focus like the Evergreen not-for-profit organization, to find out what best practices they have in place in terms of the guests on their sites. In terms of guests absconding with anything, again, it would be to all the same methods and we would hope that we would attract guests who would have the same respect for nature that we are promoting.
ALEX DAPRATO: I think it's really important to note too, even for our own learning, we've been up at Bruce County quite recently walking some of the national parks and learning about how trilliums and mushroom foraging became a real issue out there as more tourists were coming and taking from those sites. So, this poaching concern is legitimate and it's a concern of ours that we're going to try to manage as best as possible through some of the activities that Melanie is talking about, but hopefully in engaging with some of these other programs for they've had problems in the past and see sort of what their mitigation techniques are because that is absolutely something we do not want to support in anyway. Someone taking from our site is not ideal at all, so we are going to do our best to manage that.
SCOTT FERGUSON: the next several questions have to do with planning and zoning and I believe they've been answered. Mr. Reynolds, I am going to try and paraphrase you and you can tell me how accurate I am. All these questions on the next page have to do with the fact that you are following the present official plan and not as opposed to the draft plan. I believe you said that is true, you are following the present Official Plan because it is in place and in effect. You are also following provincial rules that are in addition to the present Official Plan and pick up many elements of the draft plan. How accurate is that?
SCOTT REYNOLDS: That is accurate from our perspective Scott.
SCOTT FERGUSON: Thank you. I encourage the team to post that page of questions and answers, but it’s basically what I just said there. Next question is different and has to do with public consultation and Marko responds and I will answer.
It is our understanding that before the May 29 webinar you were instructed by the County that you needed to do more public consultation before submitting your application. You held an hour and a half long webinar in which your EIS was not presented due to a death in the family. Now you are holding a very short webinar on your EIS, yet you have already submitted your application, demonstrating what appears to be a deep disregard for your neighbours’ (the people of Prince Edward County) concerns regarding the environmentally sensitive habitat you propose to develop on and around and of which you propose to change the rezoning, in perpetuity, to commercial/tourism. This will change the protection of that land forever. Please discuss your decision to submit your application without holding a proper public consultation on your EIS.
I am just going to pause there for a moment, the amount of time we are giving to the environment is in excess to the amount of time we have given to the other topics we covered last time. So, the environment is actually getting more coverage then the other topics. That’s just mathematically accurate.
Marko’s response: “Development on environmentally sensitive habitat is not proposed. The EIS has determined that development near natural features will not negatively impact the features, provided mitigation measures are followed. The Digital Open House held on May 29, 2020 was suggested as an acceptable method of public consultation by the County. Please note that any questions submitted in advance of the Digital Open House. regarding the EIS were answered at the May 29, 2020 Digital Open House. Furthermore, this was not the only public consultation that took place beyond the legislative requirements. In October 2018, the proponents held a meet and greet to present the proposal. A Public Information Session was also held on November 18, 2018. Additionally, the proponents have sent numerous emails, created a website and posted notices in the Picton Gazette. Lastly, the formal Public Meeting, as required by the Planning Act, will be held by the County in the near future and the public will have an opportunity to express their views regarding the proposal”.
Again, in my 30 years of experience, these are all elements of a healthy consultation, in my opinion.
SCOTT FERGUSON: I am going to squeeze in a couple comments and then get to the final two questions, like we did last time.
“Without seeing the actual Environmental Impact Study prior to the presentation, it is not feasible to prepare any specific questions relating to this study. That being said, as previously expressed to your team, the preliminary work that’s been done to clear entranceways and the area directly beneath the escarpment ridge are substantial. Our immediate neighbours are already realizing a significant change to the water levels in Lost Lake due to alterations your team has made to the site. Wetlands are precious! They and the lands adjacent to them must be protected! Approval of this project will negatively impact the environmental and public health of this area. We are not in support of this development!”
I am going to ask for a comment on one phrase in here that I think is the bottom line.” The project will negatively impact the environment.” Who would like to comment?
SCOTT REYNOLDS: I can provide comment on that, Scott. The purpose of our EIS is to address the impacts from the proposed development on the property and it’s our position with the EIS, that if the mitigation measures are put in place and the appropriate approvals/permits are obtained, that the impacts from the development are manageable and in accordance with the appropropriate guidelines and policies.
ALEX DAPRATO: I do want to jump in there, too because this is the second time it’s come up in terms of significant change in the water levels. I talked about it last time a little bit, but in terms of what has been done around there, we dug the wells, those wells are not in use, there was a one time pumping and recovery test that was done with the hydrogeological, but those wells are not in use and not taking. The other activity was the small portion of the beaver dam that was located near the mouth where the stream starts to actually go out in the southeastern portion into Lake Ontario. That was removed by our farmer in an effort to try to lower the flooding that has happened in the backfield and the middle field. This has been an activity that has happened before on this site, before we were property owners, when those fields need to be tilled. The hope is, in this fall with having those fields dried out, we can plant the native seeding and some of the trees that we are looking to start to promote that restoration program and we needed dry soil to do that. Ongoing, and into the future, we are not looking to continue to do anything with that beaver dam, we are trying to keep it not on site so the beaver are happy to get back to constructing that.
SCOTT FERGUSON: There are two more points and I think we will then have honoured the input. The first point is a comment and the second is a question.
“Good morning, Melanie and Team,
I’m writing to you as a County resident who cherishes wetlands for their benefits for current and future generations. Coastal wetlands (indeed, all wetlands) are essential to human health. They provide critically important ecological functions, including surface water drainage, contaminant filtration, recharging groundwater, and more. They support biodiversity. These benefits are incontrovertible and shown to be so by numerous scientific and environmental studies. Lands adjacent to coastal wetlands should never be subject to site alteration. The county’s draft Official Plan recognizes their essential importance and protects them. Full stop. I have no questions about how you plan to remediate any damage you’ve already caused, or will cause, to this sensitive environment because posing such questions allows you to claim you have addressed the concerns of neighbours and friends of the environment. But you have not. The project should not go ahead. I trust that you will read this email, unedited, at your June 30 Zoom meeting. I shall be attending.”
The last is a question that was asked and answered at our last consultation session. We’ll cover it off and then I think I’ll turn it over to the team. I think we’ve covered all of the material I can see in front of me. This has to do with traffic.
According to the Traffic Review: “the development is proposed to be serviced by an uncontrolled intersection off the proposed entrance to the site off County Road 8”. However there appears to be another entrance off Rock Crossroad that provides access to the Project site. It also appears that this road is required in order to provide access the “Escarpment Cabins” (the presence of the EPA prevents access to these cabins from the road from the main entrance off County Road
8). Please explain why this other road is not accounted for in the Traffic Review? What are your plans to use this road both in the short and long-term?
Marko provides the following response which I believe we heard last time: “The proposed access from 501 Rock Cross Road is only intended to provide vehicular access to the five cabins located in the upper plateau of the escarpment. Stairs will provide pedestrian access to the cabins on the upper plateau of the escarpment from the lower portion of the site. The limited traffic generated by five cabins is not anticipated to negatively impact the road network, particularly as it was determined that, due to the limited scale of the entire development and the ample capacity of the road relative to the current traffic demand, County Road 8 will continue to operate at a very high level of service, without modifications, following occupancy of the development”.
SCOTT FERGUSON: Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that is the material submitted in advance.
BRIAN DALY: And we have one question that came through the open Q&A. So, if we answer that we can wrap everything up. It’s unlikely that a private property developed at 10% would have been between or have between 20 to 30 000 people on it per a year as your own website anticpates will be the future of the number of visitors. So, how does the number of people visiting impact the land?
SCOTT FERGUSON: Can you just clarify Brian, you said 10%.
BRIAN DALY: This was the 10% of the structures being the square footage of the usable acreage which was less than 1%.
ALEX DAPRATO: I think Scott might be able to answer at least the impact on land. I know for us, I think it's been indicated a few times that we're looking at guided walks and programs through sensitive areas. Most of that concentrated expected guest counts are all going to happen within closed loops that are designed and architected within the front portion of the property. Within a circuit of the spa loop and then within the building design of the main lodge. And then again, as we get further into the site, everything is much more curated for having participation from one of our staff with people as they go through the site. So it's not free range like you'd expect at a National Park or Provincial Park in that regard we're being a lot more cautious. Mostly because for us programmatically, there's a lot of storytelling that is a part of the education that we want to give guests throughout their experience on the property, so we want to have people there explaining the different plant species and their benefits medicinally, within food, within seasons working within this ecosystem. So, those guided walks aren't just as a result of trying to maintain the integrity of the sensitivities, while obviously that is a huge benefit, it's also a part of our mission to help to bring people closer to the land as a real educational component.
BRIAN DALY: So just a follow-up to that, it says with respect to talking about your programming it does not address the question.
ALEX DAPRATO: So, I indicated too, that for the impact, Scott can take a look at that. I am just more focused on the flow of traffic within our site is going to be controlled and focused. In terms of the impact on the environment that is something Scott can look at.
SCOTT REYNOLDS: Yeah, I think Alex you’ve alluded to my response on that question in that the front portion of the property, that we noted is the furthest away from the sensitive features, has already been subject to a little bit of disturbance over it’s past history, as well as your control of the peoples’ movements on the property. So, you know, you're going to have your designated trail network, as well as the the guided groups that you mention will really generate a facilitated approach to where and when people can access those sensitive features and it allows you a level of control for features such as the boardwalk where if you were to identify a species that's nesting immediately beside the boardwalk you have control to say, “you know what we've got to limit our operations in this area for this period to avoid impacts to those species.” So, I think with the guided groups and the focus of the tours accessing the rear portion of the property where the majority of the sensitive features are that’s really going to limit your potential for impacts on the land and I think the other thing to consider is that's a large number that's broken down over an annual basis so when you backtrack that out, you are looking at less than a hundred people a day based on the numbers that are provided or less than that. So, that's another aspect that can be factored in this part of the control of where and when people can access.
ALEX DAPRATO: And the two other points too that Scott alluded to is that currently there’s a lot of recreational use of the property with what we talked about last time with the ATVs and snowmobiles through winter and people are accessing the site as a part of that trail network. We find all the time, garbage and a little party zone at the back of the property at Chicken Hill that's unchecked and unregistered and we're hoping that without that machine traffic and being there presently to manage that flow, everything will be a little bit more controllable and we're hoping too that the average daily count that we're projecting is going to engage with the other commercial properties that are close to us. Our next door neighbours are an operating organic vineyard with great wine and we are hoping that our guests engage with them and there is Fifthtown Cheese that neighbours them and we are hoping there is an opportunity for people to go engage with other properties in the area as well as the Waupoos area. It’s not just focused on site as well, there's a lot of other opportunities for people around us for people to engage.
SCOTT FERGUSON: So, I think at this point now, I will turn it over to thank the number of participants who have remained until we had ample time to address all of the questions submitted and close today and I’m going to propose to Melanie to provide closing remarks and next steps.
MELANIE HAZELL: Absolutely. So as mentioned, this session will be posted on our website within the week and the transcribed answers to the questions will also be on our website. As a reminder, the municipality open houses are additional opportunities for you to share your perspective with County staff and council. Just a quick word about future community engagement, we are exploring meaningful ways to stay connected and to encourage an ongoing dialogue. The IRTH team has had some really inspiring weekly conversations over the past few months with subject matter experts ranging from environmental engineers, foragers, plant-based chefs, rammed earth builders, and Indigenous horticulturists to expand our knowledge for this project. We are excited about continuing these conversations and we will be looking at how we can activate this initiative for your participation, if there's any interest. So, stay tuned and thanks again everyone for coming out. We really appreciate those of you who took the time to send in questions in advance. Thanks to panellist and Scott Ferguson. Take care and Happy Canada Day.