Despite approval by the municipality earlier this year to proceed with the proposed Muskoka Royale College, opponents are still hoping they can put the brakes on the project as it heads to the Ontario Land Tribunal later this month.
In January the Town of Bracebridge approved rezoning of the 450-acre site, which is located just east of Stephen’s Bay, to open the door for construction of a boarding school.
The developer, George Chen, says that on full build-out, Muskoka Royale College will accommodate up to 1,800 students over a gradual period of 15-20 years. He says the development of this school is expected to provide the equivalent of 200 full-time construction jobs over a five-year period, and 120 full-time, permanent professional jobs in teaching and administration and other positions.
However, opponents of the project claim it is being built in an environmentally sensitive wetland area which could have catastrophic results for the local ecosystem.
“The politicians are going in a way that’s contrary to the way the science is pointing,” says Michael Appleby, who helped found the South Bracebridge Environmental Protection Group (SBEPG). The group formed when the proposal first came to light and they have since collected more than 5,000 signatures opposed to the development, says Appleby.
“I’m a science-based person. I rely on facts and it’s stunning to me that none of the information sent to the council was given any weight. It’s stunning on one level and sad on another,” he says.
In September, 2017, Michalski Nielsen Associates Limited was retained by Muskoka Royale Developments Inc. to update their previous natural environment work on the westerly half of the Muskoka Royale property, in support of the development of a senior school and future elementary school campus. They concluded that the proposal was appropriate for the area in both scale and intensity.
Applebee says that study was deeply flawed.
“Consider that the subject lands have documented 204 species, with seven of those species
on the Endangered Species list, but because their habitat locations are still unknown,
the impact from any site development cannot be clearly understood,” said Appleby in a letter to Town council.
He also points to letters of support from Ontario Nature and Barry Warner, a professor of Earth and environmental sciences at the University of Waterloo.
After the town decided to approve the project earlier this year, the SBEPG filed an appeal with the Ontario Land Tribunal for both the rezoning approval by the Town of Bracebridge and the District of Muskoka’s change to the Official Plan Amendment. The Case Management Conference has now been set for September 20, 2021 at 10 a.m. by video conference.
The meeting is open to the public and can be viewed online at https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/861375109.
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