A public meeting will be held on Wednesday regarding the nature reserve land exchange project
A land swap project between the Muskoka Conservancy and neighboring landowners Jeremiah Tillstra and Margaret Stead has prompted locals to fight back.
The proposed interchange would see the Conservancy separate approximately 0.8 hectares (1,977 acres) of land containing 105m of frontage at Town Line Road West from the Nelson Head Nature Reserve located at 25 Town Line Road West. In exchange, the owners abutting 139 Brunel Road would remove 4.0 hectares (9.884 acres) from the back of their property to be added to the reserve.
The land swap would allow Brunel Road landowners to create new frontage building land on Town Line Road West, while Conservancy would increase Nelson Head Nature Reserve from 3.7 hectares (9.143 acres) to 6.9 hectares (17.05 acres) with frontage on Town Line Road West and Brunel Road.
In two letters submitted to the City by the Conservancy, its officials noted that the estimated two acres they would give up are not as valuable as the 10 or so acres the reserve would gain. In addition, they say that the headwaters of a stream that crosses the nature reserve is located in the area that the reserve would gain as a result of the land exchange.
In 2012, the land containing the reserve was donated to the Conservancy by Aldine Head in memory of her husband, Bill, and her stepfather, Nelson.
Attempts to reach Head were unsuccessful. She indicated through family friend Mike MacDonald that she did not want to be declared. He said she was so upset by the Conservancy’s proposal that she asked him to speak on his behalf. MacDonald wondered why anyone would want to donate a property to Conservancy if their wishes are not met.
“They just do what they see fit. They go against the wishes of the donor and do whatever they want, that’s what it boils down to, ”he said. He also questioned the intentions of the new lot, noting that it could be used for multi-residential development.
Contacted by Doppler, Scott Young, executive director of Muskoka Conservancy, said he was surprised at the backlash. “A lot has changed during COVID, land values are changing rapidly. All I can tell you is that the land we take back in exchange for the land we give up is more valuable to us, ”he said, adding that a 200 acre swamp would have more. of ecological value for the organization. what about a perfectly level downtown property next to a parking lot.
“We value the land for its conservation value and the land we get in exchange is five times more than the land we give up and it has higher conservation values,” he said, adding that generally people want more nature conservation. . “We believe that the property we get in exchange is significantly better from a conservation standpoint than the two acres we are giving up. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be doing this. I find it surprising that people are opposed to it.
Young said that despite Head’s wish not to proceed with the land swap and leave the land as is, the organization plans to go ahead with the planning requests as the requests have already been submitted. .
“We have indeed decided to go ahead anyway and let the City decide because the candidacies have already been submitted, the meeting has already been set, the public is already unhappy… if the City decides not to do so. does not want it, the City does not want it. must have it. The Town can say no, and if the good people of Huntsville decide they don’t want it, they can come to the meeting and write letters and tell them they don’t want it. In my experience, Huntsville gets what Huntsville wants, ”he said, adding,“ I totally respect his position, it’s just that the perspective has changed… anyone can change their mind, no. ‘is this not ?
MacDonald said Head has always maintained that she wanted the property to remain as it was given. He said she felt compelled by Conservancy to accept their proposal, but she didn’t want them to go ahead.
A remote public meeting regarding land rezoning at 25 Town Line Road West at Conservation in support of land swap and lot creation is scheduled for Wednesday, June 16, 2021 at 1:00 p.m. A link to the meeting and instructions on how to participate can be found here.
The staff report to be presented at the meeting includes eight letters of objection to the land swap from residents of the area. Their concerns include the precedence that such a land swap would create for future donations and concerns that the land that was donated had not been rezoned for conservation. An author of the letter went so far as to question the perspective associated with the recommendation of the town planning department to approve the applications, especially since one of the owners has a “connection to the town hall”.
Planning staff noted in their report that given the number of objections in the file, it is only after a decision on the zoning change has been rendered that the Town’s Committee of Adjustment will consider the request for consent (subdivision of land). The City’s public notice also requests that all public submissions regarding the consent request be made before Wednesday’s meeting. But that process has been criticized by area residents who say public input should be sought first and separately on whether the land should be cut.
You can find the full staff report here.
Don’t miss the Doppler!
Register now here to receive our summary by email with links to our most recent stories.
Local news delivered to your inbox three times a week!