Minaki Lodge Redevelopment — Good News!

After the announcement last fall that the Minaki Lodge site was for sale for a 199-unit trailer park, developers David Banman and Bob Schinkel have apparently found little interest from trailer park buyers.  In response, they have now moved to a plan of selling individual residential lots.  If this plan holds, it will be a wonderful end to a long saga.

Their plan shows 39 lots for sale, using lots in the existing underlying subdivision of the Town of Minaki or combinations of those lots.  Since they rely on the existing lot layout, with no further subdivision, there is no Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing approval or process required and the lots are capable of year-round use under the Provincial Policy Statement.

Other positives:

— demolition of the hotel buildings

— individual on-site septic, so no use of the sewage treatment plant

— no dock expansion

— lots of construction work for local contractors

Bob Schinkel has put together a marketing brochure with the lot layout and additional information.  The brochure is available by clicking here. It’s possible that issues of on-site septic, topography, and proximity to the rail line are handled by additional combining of lots.

This proposed use — lower density residential dwellings on individual lots with on-site septic — has been urged for the Lodge site by the large group of year-round residents and by the Conservancy since the first filings with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing in 2013.  On behalf of the Conservancy, we enthusiastically support the developers’ lots proposal, and will try to help with the continued spreading of information.  A trailer park buyer could still appear, so it’s important that the developers stay on their new path.

In addition, the group of year-round and seasonal residents that organized the attempted purchase of the site by a charity in 2018 will work now to try to accomplish some early lot purchases to reinforce the appropriateness of the residential lot approach.  If you have any interest in coordinated work on lot purchases, please contact us through the “Contact the Conservancy” button above and we will pass your response along.

The Minaki Conservancy Board of Directors

Posted in MCA

Flowering Rush

The spread and impacts of flowering rush in the Winnipeg River will continue to be a focus for the Conservancy this year.  There is some progress, as awareness of the problem is increasing.  Earlier this winter Caroline Josephson participated in conversations with the Lake of the Woods District Stewardship Association and government officials in Kenora about the plant.  Cottagers in Clearwater Bay also participated, as flowering rush shows up more and more in Lake of the Woods.  These were mainly introductory meetings, but information was shared on the extent of the problem to date, potential mitigation measures, and future courses of action. Caroline has also been in contact with Manitoba officials, as the plant marches downriver to the Provincial boundary.

In addition, MNRF staff in Kenora passed along to the Conservancy in December an email from Robert Bourchier at Agriculture Canada, asking about flowering rush impacts in NW Ontario in connection with federal-level work on combating the plant with a beetle.  We took the chance in our reply to Mr. Bourchier (available by clicking here) to explain the devastation in the Winnipeg River.

Posted in MCA

Tribunal Denies Appeal of Sewage Treatment Permit

The Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal has rejected Alex Rheault’s request for leave to appeal the issuing of an amended permit for the old Minaki Lodge sewage treatment plant.  The Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks had issued the amended permit in March to allow Bob Banman and Bob Schinkel’s 198-unit trailer park on the Lodge site.

The request for leave to appeal, prepared in a collaborative effort by year-round residents of the town and the Conservancy, asserted that MEPC should have required that water quality baseline studies, now thirty-two years old, be updated, and that additional filtration of plant effluent should be required before the effluent flows directly into the Winnipeg River.  A report from R.J. Burnside and Associates, the Toronto engineering firm that has worked with the residents and the Conservancy since 2013, backed up those points.

The rejection is not a surprise, as the Tribunal’s standard of review is tilted sharply in favor of Provincial Ministries.  Under that standard, Alex’s application had to show that no reasonable person could have made the Ministry decision.  Still, since baseline studies are required under the MEPC’s own rules, and since additional filtration is now a common addition to the old treatment process in the plant, we thought it unreasonable for MEPC to refuse to include them.  The Tribunal’s decision adopts MEPC’s counter that the size of the Winnipeg River will cure all ills, and that the amended permit, while it could be better, is good enough.  The decision is available by clicking here.

Despite this result, the Conservancy and the residents will continue to stay on top of the proposed trailer park development, striving to lessen its dreadful impacts on Minaki’s rare natural environment and special community culture.

Thank you,

The Minaki Conservancy Board

Posted in MCA

Request for Leave to Appeal — Response and Reply

The Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (“MECP”) and lawyers for developers Bob Banman and Bob Schinkel have responded to Alex Rheault’s request for leave to appeal to the Environmental Review Tribunal two aspects of the amended sewage treatment permit issued by MECP for developers’ proposed trailer park on the Minaki Lodge site.  The Conservancy has been cooperating with the group of year-round residents that Alex represents in work on the request for leave.

The responses are a virtual mountain of paper.  Two primary pieces of the response — the statement of the MECP Director and the statement of the lawyers — are attached to the links below.  Those statements argue that Alex does not have standing to seek leave to appeal, that the Ministry decision not to require updated water quality baseline studies for the Winnipeg River and not to require additional filtration of the treatment plant effluent was reasonable, and that significant environmental harm will not occur.

Alex is entitled to a reply, and that statement is also linked below, along with a supplemental report of R.J. Burnside and Associates, the engineering firm that has been working with the year-round group and the Conservancy since 2013.

The reply addresses again the unusual circumstances of the 2014 permit amendment and of the old Lodge treatment plant with its direct discharge into the Winnipeg River, all in unorganized territory.  It asks the Tribunal finally to recognize those circumstances and pay proper respect to the Province’s water.

Links:

Posted in MCA

PROPOSED MINAKI LODGE REDEVELOPMENT — REQUEST TO APPEAL AMENDMENT OF SEWAGE TREATMENT PERMIT

In mid-March, the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks approved the Minaki Lodge redevelopers’ application to amend the permit for the old Minaki Lodge sewage treatment plant, so that the plant could serve a trailer park instead of condominiums.

Minaki resident Alex Rheault, on his own behalf and on behalf of the majority of town residents known as the Alex Rheault group, has requested leave to appeal the amendment to the Environmental Rights Tribunal.  That request arises under Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights, and may be made only by an Ontario resident.

The request for leave to appeal addresses MOE’s amending of the permit without requiring updated water quality baseline studies for the Winnipeg River and without requiring additional treatment of effluent before it discharges from the 32-year old plant directly into the River.  The residents and the Conservancy have been advocating for the correction of those failures for years.

The Conservancy cooperated with the residents in the preparation and submission of the request for leave.  Tony Usher, our joint planning consultant, and Anne Egan at R.J. Burnside, our joint engineering consultant, provided quick assistance in meeting the 15-day deadline.  If leave to appeal is granted, then an appeal to the Tribunal would follow, most likely based on written submissions.  It appears that a ruling on the request for leave will come by the end of June.

The primary components of the request for leave are available by clicking on the links below.

The Minaki Conservancy Board

Posted in MCA