Minaki Lodge

In the late summer of 2012, Steinbach developers Bob Banman and Bob Schinkel proposed to put 161 seasonal residential condominium units on the Minaki Lodge site, with 56 units in the existing hotel buildings, 8 in existing cottage buildings, and 95 on new vacant lots. A commercial condominium unit would hold the former Dockside restaurant. The then 25-year old Minaki Lodge private sewage treatment plant would handle all the sewage and wastewater from the project.  The condominium was to be called Minaki on the River.

The Minaki Conservancy (then known as the Minaki Cottagers Association), representing over 380 seasonal property owners, and a large number of year round residents of the town of Minaki raised a set of significant concerns regarding the proposed treatment of sewage from the redevelopment in unorganized territory, the adverse impacts of the extreme density of proposed condominium units on Minaki’s special character and context and on its tourism industry, the danger to public safety from the excessive number of boats and docks and amount of water recreation in the Lodge channel, and the loss of the significant cultural heritage of the Minaki golf course landscape.  The Conservancy and year-round residents  presented those issues to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, which held an approval of the Minaki on the River project as a matter of land use planning, and to the Ministry of the Environment(now known as the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks), which erroneously assigned to Banman and Schinkel the former Minaki Lodge sewage treatment permit that still allowed piping of effluent directly into the Winnipeg River.  The Wabaseemoong Independent Nation at Whitedog, and the Niisaachewan Anishinaabe.Nation at the Dalles, also expressed concerns.

In 2015, the developers filed amended condominium applications with Municipal Affairs, reducing the number of residential units to 138. That modest reduction resulted from regulatory requirements regarding odors and distances from the treatment plant, and did not address any of the impacts that The Conservancy, the residents of the town, and the Independent Nation had been pressing on the Ministry.  Nevertheless, in early April, 2016, MMAH approved the amended redevelopment applications with conditions, and gave the redevelopers until 2019 to meet them.  After reviewing the conditions, The Conservancy and the large group of year-round residents appealed the approvals to the Ontario Municipal Board for a hearing on the project and the issues raised by the local interests. The hearing took place over two weeks starting on July 17, 2017, in Kenora.  The Conservancy and the group of residents put on a comprehensive case, with assistance from counsel and a registered planner from Toronto, engineering and cultural heritage experts, and nine year-round and seasonal lay witnesses.  Representatives of the  Independent Nations and the Lake of the Woods District Property Owners Association appeared and also registered concerns about the development proposal.

In mid-October, 2017, the OMB upheld all appeals from The Conservancy and the residents, vacating the development approvals for the condominium project.  The OMB decision agreed with The Conservancy and the residents on a single conclusive point — that under Section 1.6.6.3 of the Provincial Policy Statement, private communal sewage treatment is allowed only in municipalities, where the municipality is available to provide oversight and a backstop for failure. In unorganized territory, private communal sewage treatment of the kind proposed by developers for the 138 residential condominium units and for the additional restaurant unit could not occur. The OMB decision is available under the “Conservancy Appeals” heading below.

Developers appealed the ruling to the chair of the OMB.  In May, 2018, the OMB (now known as the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal) chair rejected developers’ appeal, leaving in place the prohibition on private communal sewage treatment.

Developers now plan a trailer park for the Lodge site, with 198 units.  With no subdivision involved, MMAH approval is not required.  Developers still propose to run all waste through the old Minaki Lodge sewage treatment plant, and do need an amendment to the treatment permit from the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.  The Conservancy, the group of year-round residents, and the Niisaachewan Anishinaabe Nation have commented on the proposed amendment through the Environmental Registry.  Those comments, backed by reports from planning and engineering experts, urge the MEPC to bring the permit up to date, from 1988 to 2020, by (i) ending the direct dumping of effluent into the Winnipeg River, (ii) requiring additional treatment of waste on land, and (iii) requiring updated baseline studies on Winnipeg River water quality.  As of January, 2020, MEPC has not ruled on the amendment.

Community efforts to buy the Lodge site from developers, in 2018 and 2019, have so far been unsuccessful.

The Conservancy’s work with governmental authorities on the proposed development is described the materials listed below.

The Conservancy always makes clear that it supports redevelopment of the Minaki Lodge site, that it is not opposed to the seasonal residential use that Banman and Schinkel have proposed for the Minaki on the River project, and that it hopes that Banman and Schinkel can be successful and that local Minaki businesses can benefit from the new seasonal residents.  But that success and that benefit can still happen from an appropriately-sized project and from sewage treatment that conforms to all rules and regulations.

OMB APPEAL PROCESS

MCA COMMENT ON ENVIRONMENTAL REGISTRY

MCA SUPPLEMENTAL SUBMISSION TO ONTARIO MINISTRY OF MUNICIPAL AFFAIRS AND HOUSING REGARDING SEWAGE TREATMENT

MCA SUPPLEMENTAL SUBMISSION TO ONTARIO MINISTRY OF MUNICIPAL AFFAIRS AND HOUSING REGARDING HERITAGE LANDSCAPE

MCA CORRESPONDENCE WITH ONTARIO MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT REGARDING SEWAGE TREATMENT PERMIT

CORRESPONDENCE WITH MANITOBA PROVINCIAL OFFICIALS

MCA SUBMISSION TO MMAH, APRIL 2013

Minaki Lodge