Update on MMAH and MOE Review of Proposed Minaki Lodge Redevelopment

Update on MMAH and MOE Review of Proposed Minaki Lodge Redevelopment

Here’s an update on the review of the Minaki Lodge redevelopment proposal by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing by the Ministry of the Environment, in the form of the latest message to MCA members.

To:    Minaki Cottagers Association Members    The review by the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing of the proposed redevelopment of the Minaki Lodge site seems to be accelerating toward a decision. Here’s an update on a renewed level of high activity.

MMAH Phone Call   At the end of May, David Hewlett, Rick Handlon, and Mark Engebretson spoke on the phone with Sylvie Oulton, the MMAH planner in Thunder Bay, her team leader (based in Sudbury), and the regional manager (also in Sudbury). We had requested again a meeting in person in Thunder Bay, to try to help equalize the direct contacts over the past year by developers Bob Banman and Bob Schinkel, but the MMAH wanted a call on process and timing.   While the call demonstrated that MMAH staff have spent a tremendous amount of time reviewing the Banman and Schinkel application, we did not get a good sense that there is any serious push back from MMAH staff on any basic part of the proposed redevelopment – scale and density, sewage treatment, use of a condominium structure in unorganized territory, or cultural heritage landscape. We did not arrive at set schedule for the MCA’s response to the additional developers’ materials that were finally sent to us by MMAH, and the MMAH staff did not commit to a personal meeting to discuss the substance of our concerns and the concerns of the many year-round residents who also made a written submission last April.

Activity Since   Since the MMAH call, and with an unsettled time frame for the remainder of the MMAH review process, we have worked on the following:

  • reviewed the developers’ additional sewage flow materials from Genivar, and copies of correspondence that we are just receiving among the developers, the Ministry of the Environment, and MMAH regarding the sewage treatment permit, with the MCA’s sewage engineers R.J. Burnside and Accutech. Our concerns about the numbers of people who will be on-site in the proposed redevelopment, and the projected flows per person, have been heightened.
  • commissioned a supplemental report from InterGroup, our economic and social impact consultant, in response to a very plain and unsupported additional report submitted by Banman and Schinkel
  • engaged a heritage cultural landscape consultant to assess the qualifications of the Stanley Thompson golf course landscape for protection under the Ontario Provincial Policy Statement, with a focus on the first and ninth fairways and their relationship to the river.
  • commissioned an overall planning review report on the proposed redevelopment from the MCA’s planning consultant, Jeff Port.

We are trying to bring all of this additional work to completion and into MMAH is quickly as we reasonably can, to make sure that it part of MMAH’s substantive review. We are also continuing to ask for a meeting with MMAH staff in person.

Lack of Local Context   What has become more and more clear is that the MCA’s members and the many year-round residents with similar concerns are endeavoring to drive into MMAH a responsible reaction to the proposed redevelopment based on their years and years of experience in Minaki and their strong sense of the history, character, and features that make the Minaki area unique, while the developers and their consultants have no sense of that. It started at the original town meeting in September, 2012, when Bob Banman arrived with a redevelopment plan that was already done and that has not changed (except for the magical disappearance of over one hundred dock slips), and it continues in the developer materials that we are seeing now.   This is a frustrating dynamic, because the MCA supports a redevelopment of the Lodge site and is not opposed to the seasonal residential use that Banman and Schinkel have proposed, and wants the local economic benefit from the new cottagers on the site to occur. The MCA’s point, boiled all the way down, is simply that the site can easily be reused, and the local economic benefit delivered, at a sensible scale and density for the local context of Minaki and in a project that meets all current sewage treatment standards. We have to hope that MMAH recognizes and acts to protect the special local features of the Minaki community in its action on the application.

MCA Member Survey   Please be on the lookout for a very short survey from the MCA regarding your boat use and fishing activities. The developers have long asserted that the apparent unacceptable impacts on Minaki from the sheer scale of their redevelopment will be mitigated because they will be marketing the condominium units on the Lodge site to people aged 55 and up, and that those people will not be active users of boats and won’t fish much. We hope to gather some basic information from MCA members on that point.

Ministry of the Environment   Our most recent update noted that the Ontario Ministry of the Environment has responded favorably to the MCA’s calls for the addition of phosphorous treatment to the existing Lodge sewage plant. The alterations that result to the plant require an amendment to the permit, and that amendment in turn produces a right of public comment under the Ontario Environmental Rights Act. The MCA submitted a comment in that public process at the end of March, making the same points that it has been making to the MOE for a year and a half – that the mere targets for treatment of all contaminants from the plant must be changed to enforceable limits, to match the terms of all other permits issued by MOE in the past eleven years, and the original baseline studies of Winnipeg River water quality from the late 1980’s must be updated.   We still have not heard from MOE on the result of the amended permit application.

Annual General Meeting   A reminder that the MCA’s annual general meeting is scheduled for July 12, from 10:00 to 12:00 at the Community Center.  If you have any questions or comments, please let one of us know.

David Hewlett                                           Mark Engebretson

MCA President                                         MCA Board Member