Proposed provincial policy changes surrounding land use compatibility guidelines are raising eyebrows at the District of Muskoka.
Of particular concern are proposed changes regarding how lands are treated on or near landfills and dumps.
According to a District staff report submitted for council approval on June 21, if the policy changes go through they could impact lands surrounding 33 municipal and 64 non-municipal operating and non-operating waste sites across Muskoka. That means the development rights, and associated costs, of 3,600 Muskoka properties could be affected. Should the guidelines come into effect, it could also make up to 116 privately held properties in Muskoka undevelopable.
Changes being proposed include the area of influence (AOI) surrounding existing or former dumps and landfills. Under the new guidelines, the AOI would be fixed at 500 metres and measured from the site’s property line, rather than the area containing the fill or substance of concern.
“Potential influence areas around all landfills and dumps in the District would be reset at 500 metres from the site’s property boundary without any mechanism to reduce the area of influence or consider the landfill footprint size, location on the property, or age,” states the report.
Likewise, it would invalidate the D-4 assessments (study of potential impact) the District has already undertaken. “We have spent to date about $253,000 at the District to clear D-4 assessments and allow people to be able to build, to be able to figure out how small the site is and the contamination so that people in proximity would be able to build,” Phil Harding, Muskoka Lakes mayor and chair of the engineering committee, told District council.
“This is unnecessary,” added Fred Jahn, District commissioner of engineering and public works. He said the previous process for due diligence was more than adequate to address the potential impacts of landfill gas migration or the potential for leachate contamination of groundwater.
“This just seems to be something that would be more applicable to large urban centres and not to Muskoka,” added Jahn.
District council agreed to forward concerns surrounding the impacts of the proposed policy changes on Muskoka to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks as well as the Association of Municipalities Ontario for help lobbying against the proposed changes as they stand.
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