An Ontario Municipal Board pre-hearing will be held May 10 on the future of the North Gwillimbury Forest.
In a newsletter distributed by email, Jack Gibbons, chair of the North Gwillimbury Forest Alliance, said: "Yesterday Georgina Town Council voted 6 to 1 to spend your money to try to persuade the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) to allow the DG Group to build a 1,073 unit mobile home park on the Paradise Beach-Island Grove Provincially Significant Wetland in the North Gwillimbury Forest."
"Our OMB pre-hearing conference is on Wednesday, May 10th at 10 a.m. at the Civic Centre in Keswick," Gibbons said. "The public is welcome to attend."
The OMB will consider an appeal to amend Georgina's Official Plan. The appeal was launched by the North Gwillimbury Forest Alliance, an organization that wants the plan amended to prohibit the proposed development.
The only councillor to vote against hiring a lawyer to represent the town before the OMB was Dave Neeson.
A public opinion survey conducted in March showed that 83 percent of Georgina residents polled hold the opinion that Georgina should support the NGFA and its request to amend the Official Plan to halt development in the provincially significant wetland. The survey, conducted by Oraclepoll Research on behalf of the NGFA, also showed 9 percent supported development, while 8 percent were unsure.
Georgina's Official Plan has already been approved by York Region Council. It is York Region's approval decision that is being appealed to the OMB by Gibbons and the NGFA.
One proposed solution, supported by Georgina, is for the developer to “swap” lands in the North Gwillimbury Forest for development on nearby prime agricultural land. But the agricultural land is part of the provincial Greenbelt Plan, and would have to be removed from the plan in order for the swap to proceed.
However, Bill Mauro, Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs, said in a letter dated Jan. 12, 2017, that "no changes to the Greenbelt Plan designations related to the Maple Lake Estates lands are proposed."
"In 2017 citizens shouldn't have to fight to persuade local politicians, who claim they love Lake Simcoe, to protect a provincially significant wetland," Gibbons said.
Photo: Photographs by Jane Denise