Help Bracebridge Town Council protect Wetlands by insisting on an Ontario Wetlands Evaluation Study (OWES) for the Muskoka Royale Development

A Toronto developer – Muskoka Royale Development Inc. – is seeking permission from Bracebridge Council to rezone 443 acres of vacant land, including wetlands and forests, to build a private boarding school for 1800 Ontario and international students. The developer’s proposed project will include a senior school, an elementary school, residences for senior and junior school students and staff, and a sports complex. Their proposal is detailed here.

Local community members formed The South Bracebridge Environmental Protection Group (SBEPG) to oppose the development. They have raised serious concerns with the scope and scale of the development, as well as insufficient evaluation and protection of numerous environmental features including wetlands with endangered species. Wetlands are integral to the Muskoka Lakes ecosystem.

Note that the proposed roads are planned to go right through the wetlands as shown by the 4 Orange highlights. The proposed multi-storey buildings will be visible from a great distance, including from the waters of Lake Muskoka. 

Friends of Muskoka and the MLA have each advised Bracebridge Council in writing spring 2019 of their concerns with the environmental and planning implications of the proposed development, and remain concerned in light of the significant wildlife habitat on the site and the inability to meet the policies of the Provincial Policy Statement. SBEPG indicates there are 204 species on the site, with 20 species of concern and 7 endangered species. Friends of Muskoka supports economic development opportunities in Bracebridge and have no objection to a boarding school locating in the Bracebridge area, but development must only be permitted where protection of our natural assets, which include ever important wetlands, can be maintained and enhanced. Friends is disappointed that, to date, Bracebridge Council has not required the developer to complete an Ontario Wetland Evaluation Study (OWES) to understand what wildlife would be put at risk from this development

We find it very concerning that the developer’s consultant has asserted that no wetland evaluation is needed particularly when that assertion ignores the most salient section of the Provincial Policy Statement pertaining to wetland conservation, namely section 2.1.4, which expressly precludes any development or site alteration in a significant wetland, without exception. 

Without carrying out an OWES evaluation of the wetland complex on the subject property, the Developer, and by extension Council, risks this proposed development being found in violation of PPS rules surrounding development on Ontario wetlands.

Bracebridge Town Council must order the developer to conduct an independent Ontario Wetland Evaluation System (OWES) assessment on the Subject Lands, including Species at Risk so that the MNRF can review and comment. An OWES would ground any required protective measures in current facts.

Further information and steps you can take to oppose this development (including signing a petition and emailing Council) are explained by SBEPG here and here. You also may register to speak at the virtual public meeting that will be held over Zoom on October 27th at 2pm.