The following is the text of an open letter sent on November 13, 2022 to Steve Clark (MPP Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes) Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing on behalf of the URLA and other area lake associations.
Dear Minister Clark:
We are writing to convey our concerns with Bill 23 (“More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022”), specifically concerns related to its impact on rural municipalities and the environmental health of the lakes in Rideau Lakes and Westport.
Clearly Ontario needs more homes for people to live in, now and into the future.
That said, some of the Bill 23 measures -- as currently drafted – would bring an urban big city approach, ill-suited to the realities of Rideau Lakes Township (and other lake districts) which in most cases are not serviced by sewage treatment and water purification plants. Overall, this Bill, if enacted in its present form, would reduce environmental protections for our local lakes and aquifers at a time when they are most needed.
Many of our lakes have fragile and even poor water quality. Water quality is at risk because of poor legacy practices (like weak septic systems), and frequently, a history of construction close to the lake, on relatively small lots. Of course, these factors are magnified with more and more people building big lakefront properties (and residing there “full time”), and climate change itself, which brings longer hotter summers and less winter ice.
Allowing 3 dwelling units on local “urban” waterfront lots serviced only by septic and well (e.g., there are some of these in Westport) could contaminate vulnerable aquifers, not to mention the impact of increased stormwaterlakefront run-off.
These challenges have been recognized by our local municipalities. In approving housing, local municipalities are increasingly encouraging land-use planning practices and principles designed to limit -- and, if at all possible, to actually entirely offset – the impact of new lake front housing construction on lake health.
Our municipalities are strongly supported by Conservation Authorities, who provide scientific expertise to municipal councillors and staff considering building applications and their potential to endanger water quality. This expertise (and related services) would be cost-prohibitive for our small towns and villages to secure for themselves on an individual basis.
We are therefore greatly concerned with several of Bill 23’s draft provisions, in particular, the provisions to:
- strip out “site plan control” on residential developments with fewer than 10 units;
- prevent municipalities from entering into agreements with Conservation Authorities, including to provide environmental reviews of planning applications on their behalf;
- provide as a matter of “right”, the ability to add additional homes/suites to waterfront lots which may be incapable of managing this increased density; and
- limit the ability of civil society groups, such as Lake Associations, to appeal poor land use decisions before the Ontario Land Tribunal.
Beyond your responsibilities as Minister, we are writing to you as our MPP. You know personally the fragile state of our lakes. You know, as well, the increased development pressures facing our lakes, and the critical importance of lake health to our local economies. Moreover, as sponsoring Minister, you are best able to amend Bill 23.
We respectfully urge you, therefore, to re-consider the application of the big city Bill 23 measures to rural waterfront Ontario, particularly those municipalities with numerous waterfront properties, as is the case in the Rideau Lakes and Westport areas.
We would like to meet with you in person, at your earliest convenience to discuss these concerns.
Bill St Jean, Bass Lake Association
Grant Leslie, Big Rideau Lake Association
Eva Leon, Chaffey’s Area Lakes Association
Jeff Neal, Otter Lake Association
Michael Peterson, Rideau Lakes Environmental Foundation
John McDowell Upper Rideau Lake Association
Mayor Robin Jones (Westport)
Mayor Arie Hoogenboom (Rideau Lakes Township)
Hon. David Piccini, Ontario Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks
MP Michael Barrett (Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes)
Katrina Furlanetto, General Manager Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority
Sommer Casgrain-Robertson, General Manager Rideau Valley Conservation Authority