Nearly three years after a rezoning paved the way for a new college in Bracebridge, it appears the way is finally clear for the project to proceed.
The Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) recently approved, with some minor amendments, the Town of Bracebridge Official Plan amendment and zoning bylaw amendment necessary for the school to be built.
“The Town of Bracebridge is pleased with the decision of the Ontario Land Tribunal regarding the appeal of the Official Plan Amendment No. 8 and Zoning By-law Amendment 2021-005 regarding the Muskoka Royale College property which aligns with our commitment of environmental stewardship and sound, considerate planning,” said Bracebridge Mayor Rick Maloney. “Our Planning and Development team is comprised of experienced individuals who are committed to upholding the highest levels of professionalism and maintaining sound processes that best serve our community both now and in the future. I am grateful for their patience, knowledge and expertise throughout this process and in their roles every day.”
In January 2021 Town council approved a rezoning of the 442-acre site, to open the door for construction of a boarding school. The property is located off Highway 118 and Ecclestone Drive, east of Stevens Bay.
A group of concerned citizens, under the banner South Bracebridge Environmental Protection Group (SBEPG), stepped forward after the zoning to appeal the decision with the OLT. The OLT adjudicates on matters related to land use planning, environmental and natural features, heritage protection and other areas.
SBEPG argued, among other things, that the area being rezoned is an environmentally sensitive wetland and development could be catastrophic for the local ecosystem.
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.
The case was heard over 12 days in September and October of 2022, and five days in January of this year. Many witnesses and experts testified on behalf of SBEPG, the Town of Bracebridge and Muskoka Royale Development Inc.
While the OLT approved the official plan amendment and zoning bylaw amendment necessary to allow the project to proceed, they provided some caveats.
The zoning by-law amendments will need to now state that setbacks from all wetlands and watercourses on the property are no less than 30 m.
The holding symbol on the property can be removed on a precinct-by-precinct basis once a site-specific environmental impact study has been done for each precinct and adjoining road on the subject lands. The environmental impact studies must, among other things, demonstrate there will be no negative impact on amphibian breeding habitat and there will be no negative impact on bats.
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