The MCA and the Minaki residents have prevailed in their appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board, vacating the Provincial approval of the Minaki on the River project.
After 11 days of hearings and presentations on local context and character, sewage flows, Minaki’s tourism industry, permanent vs. seasonal residences, boating and recreational water use, First Nations’ concerns, and the cultural heritage landscape of the golf course, the OMB member based her ruling on one threshold issue — that without municipal backup, private communal sewage treatment is not allowed in unorganized territory under section 220.127.116.11 of the Provincial Policy Statement. Since the redevelopment proposal required that 138 condominium units and a restaurant, all separately owned, share the use of the Lodge treatment plant with no municipal support, the project could not proceed.
For orderly development in unorganized territory generally, and for the Lodge site specifically, that is the best possible basis for the reversal. With that ruling, residential subdivisions in unorganized territory need to arrange for sewage treatment for each lot through a private septic system within that lot. The result is a practical check on subdivision density.
Having disposed of the redevelopment on that critical point, the OMB member did not rule on any of the other issues to which most of the hearing was devoted.
The developers have asked for leave to appeal the OMB ruling to Divisional Court. The MCA and the residents believe that there is no basis for judicial review of the OMB administrative decision.
After years of work through the land use approval process in Ontario, and after months of specific preparation, the MCA made its case on the severe negative impacts of the proposed redevelopment of the Minaki Lodge site before the Ontario Municipal Board in Kenora in mid-July. The group of 54 residents of the town who also appealed the preliminary approval of the development plan by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing joined with the MCA in presenting a consolidated case.
David Bronskill of the Goodmans law firm in Toronto and Rick Handlon of the Pitblado law firm in Winnipeg represented the MCA and the residents. Anthony Usher, a registered land use planner in Toronto, assisted the MCA and the residents in hearing preparation and appeared as an expert witness. The MCA and the residents also called expert witnesses on sewage treatment and cultural heritage landscape, along with nine lay witnesses speaking for permanent and seasonal residents.
Representatives of the Wabaseemoong Independent Nation and of the Ochiichagwe’babigo’ining Independent Nation appeared and presented their concerns about the excessive scope of the development and the proposed use of the old Minaki Lodge sewage treatment plant. The Lake of the Woods District Property Owners Association also appeared at the hearing to raise general issues related to sewage treatment and density in unorganized territory.
The MCA and the residents are pleased with the case that they put in. The effort and fundraising required to participate in a planning issue all the way through an OMB hearing are extraordinary, but the breadth of the concern for Minaki and the force of the negative impacts were powerful motivations and generated the support needed to allow the case to go in in full.
The hearing ran for two weeks, ending on Juy 28. We understand that a decision should be issued by the Municipal Board within six months of that date.
The annual Minaki community cocktail party and fundraiser is set — Sunday, July 30, from 4:00 to 8:00 pm at the Community Centre. That’s the usual Sunday before the August long weekend.
The MCA is again organizing the party, led by co-chairs Joan Chaput and Liz Polakoff. This year we will donate half the net ticket revenue to the Minaki Volunteer Fire Department. All liquor profit will go as usual to the Minaki Community Association for the benefit of the Community Centre.
Volunteers: The party runs on volunteer help for set-up, decorations, ticket-taking, bartending, photography, servers, music, kitchen support, and clean-up. History shows that the volunteers have the most fun and slots go fast. If you want to know more about volunteering, please use “Contact the MCA” button at the top.
Food: We are lucky again — the food will be catered by Denise et Jean-Louis Catering and will be terrific.
Tickets: Tickets are $25 each and are available online by clicking here. They will be available at the door, too, but an advance online purchase speeds everything up. There is no online transaction fee. The online form provides a chance to add a donation, and we’ll pass those on to the Fire Department (don’t count on a tax deduction).
We are very glad that this annual celebration of Minaki is on again, and very glad to be supporting the volunteers in the Fire Department. Please come!
A large crowd came through some sleety Kenora weather to watch as the prehearing conference at the Clarion Hotel on November 29 initiated the Minaki Lodge redevelopment appeal process. Here are the highlights.
— the hearing is set to start on July 17 in Kenora. Space on the Ontario Municipal Board calendar is reserved for up to three weeks
— David Bronskill, the Toronto lawyer who represents both the group of year-round residents and the MCA in the combined appeal, submitted an issues list for the hearing. Neither the lawyer for Minaki on the River nor the lawyer for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing had any objection. That issues list is an important factor in the hearing process; the MCA and year-round residents’ representatives spent a significant amount of time working on it with our shared planning consultant in Toronto. The list as submitted takes the longstanding concerns with the redevelopment proposal and translates them into hard issues under the Provincial Policy Statement, the primary (and pretty much only) planning guide in unorganized territory. A copy is available under the “Minaki Lodge” tab.
— representatives of the Ochiichagwe’babigo’ining Independent Nation at the Dalles and of the Lake of the Woods District Property Owners Association asked for participant status to state concerns about the redevelopment proposal and both were approved. Seasonal resident Bruce Mahaffy also requested and received participant status. The OMB member confirmed that the Wabaseemoong Independent Nation at White Dog will still have an opportunity to join as a participant as well.
— Rick Handlon, a lawyer at the Pitblado law firm in Winnipeg who has already done an extraordinary amount of work on this project, was recognized as co-counsel with David Bronskill for year-round residents and the MCA. (Given that position as counsel, Rick has resigned from the MCA board.) Rick will continue to donate all his time.
The conference ran only for an hour. The parties will next adopt a procedural order that will confirm the hearing date, the parties, and the participants, and will set a schedule for the development of the case between now and July.
One final note. The tone and conduct of the conference were quite formal. The lawyers and the OMB member are all from Toronto, know each other from past cases, and dealt with each other with respect and deference. After the long, haphazard, and anti-disclosure handling of the file by a rotating cast of characters at MMAH, we took comfort from the seriousness, competence, and independence that will characterize the appeal process with the OMB.
The prehearing conference with the Ontario Municipal Board on the proposed redevelopment of the Minaki Lodge site, originally scheduled for September 22 and then suddenly cancelled, has been rescheduled for 10:00 am on November 29 in Kenora. The location is the Clarion (former Lakeside Best Western) hotel.
The Toronto attorney for the MCA and for year-round residents who also have appealed the Province’s preliminary approval tells us that the first try at holding the conference failed for a flaw in OMB’s meeting notices. Those notices apperently fell short in required specification of the location of the event (at that time, the Minaki Community Hall), a shortfall recognized by OMB at virtually the last minute.
The prehearing conference with the Ontario Municipal Board regarding the proposed redevelopment of Minaki Lodge is scheduled for September 22, at 10:00 am at the Community Centre.
This conference is the first official step on the way to the actual OMB hearing, likely in early summer, 2017. That hearing will decide year-round residents’ and the MCA’s appeals of the initial provincial approval of Banman and Schinkel’s plans for 138 seasonal condominium units on the site and for the use of the old Lodge sewage treatment plant.
A member of the Municipal Board will lead the conference. The conference’s purpose is to confirm parties and other participants, to start to identify issues and witnesses, and to estimate hearing length and potential timing. The MCA’s and year-round residents’ joint legal counsel from Toronto will attend. The conference is open to the public.
MCA board member Lyle Norrie has been leading some information-gathering on flowering rush — the non-native aquatic reed that is increasingly taking over places on the Winnipeg River in Minaki. The result is a 4-page report, available by clicking the link below. Here’s a summary: there is so far no good way to deal with this plant. Efforts at control will require a lot of work. The MCA will stay on this topic, providing information and seeking feedback from people as they try to manage it.