Bonnechere Valley approves over $66,000 for two studies looking at Lake Clear designation to allow RVs

·5 min read

Eganville – Bonnechere Valley council has approved two studies, totalling $66,642.75, to look at capacity issues on Lake Clear and see if it actually is defendable to apply for an Official Plan Amendment to allow RVs around the lake.

“We’ve got to put this to bed once and for all,” Mayor Jennifer Murphy said following a committee meeting of council last Tuesday. “We have to be sure we are heading down the right road.”

The Lake Clear Capacity Assessment study by Hutchinson Environmental Sciences Ltd. will cost $37,734 plus HST. A Lake Clear Capacity/ RV Land Use Study by J.L. Richards & Associates, an engineering, architect and planning firm, will cost $28,908.75 plus HST. The two companies have worked in collaboration in the past in similar projects. The proposal from Hutchinson Environmental noted “a Lake Clear capacity assessment is required to determine if Lake Clear is at capacity for development and if not, how development impacts associated with RVs can be minimized.”

The capacity assessment from Hutchinson includes a background review, field investigations, analysis, reporting, meetings and public presentations. The field investigations are scheduled for late summer/early fall between August 15 and September 15. As well, there will be meetings scheduled not only with the township but also with the Lake Clear Property Owners Association.

The study from J. L. Richards includes a background review, municipal precedent review (looking at other municipalities), analysis and recommendations, reporting, meeting and implementation support. The schedule for the completion of work would be to have the project completed by late 2022 or early 2023.

There was no discussion on the proposals during the committee meeting last Tuesday, but it was part of the agenda package and was brought up by the Leader during the media session following the meeting. The discussion to approve the two studies had been made during an earlier closed session.

“We had heavy discussion,” Mayor Murphy said. “This decision was not made lightly.”

Having the cost spread over two years means it is not too much of a pull on the reserves, she added.

The issue of Lake Clear, the RVs around the lake and the comprehensive zoning by-law has been discussed at length at council. In fact, the issue of RVs around Lake Clear predates this council and was also discussed at length by the previous council. A by-law to allow the RVs around the lake was repealed by council prior to the commencement of the Comprehensive Zoning By-law review. When the Comprehensive Zoning By-Law was passed, the section on RVs was removed.

CAO Annette Gilchrist confirmed the municipality is looking at an Official Plan Amendment so RVs can be allowed around the lake. She pointed out since the 1980s RVs have not been permitted on Lake Clear as per the by-laws from the former Sebastopol Township. This predates the creation of Bonnechere Valley Township.

Data is needed to support the ask for the Official Plan Amendment at the County of Renfrew, so these studies should provide the necessary data, she said.

“The environmental engineer looks at the impact,” Ms. Gilchrist said.

The studies by the engineer and the planners will then be included in a proposal to the county for the amendment, she explained.

“We need the data to back up and tell us if we can or we can’t,” Mayor Murphy said.

“We think this will finally and completely give us the information we need,” she added.

Two percent of Township Levy

Ms. Gilchrist clarified $30,000 is the equivalent of one percent of the township levy, however the funding for the studies is being taken from reserves. The two studies will be funded over two budget cycles.

“This was very expensive,” Mayor Murphy acknowledged.

However, having the proper studies done allows the township to better defend any future decision, she said. If there is an appeal to a future decision and it goes to the Ontario Land Tribunal, it will be easier to defend, she said. “If the OLT sees that we have done our homework, they will deny the claim,” she said.

When the earlier by-law allowing RVs around Lake Clear was approved, a fundraising campaign by Lake Clear property owners began quickly to launch an appeal.

Councillor Jack Roesner said having the consultants look into the issue and make a science-based recommendation is a good move.

“We are using their knowledge to provide us with reliable information,” he said.

Having up to date scientific data is important, he noted.

“We don’t want to go on a by-law worded in Sebastopol in the 1980s,” he said.

“Hopefully we will put this all to sleep,” Councillor Merv Buckwald said.

Mayor Murphy said people on both sides of the issue can see the township is investing money into making a decision and seeing what can be done. “It is above our pay grade, and we are going with experts,” she said.

Coun. Roesner pointed out they have asked for information from various government ministries about Lake Clear and the capacity issues and lake quality issues and never heard definitively.

“The experts could never present a time when the oxygen level was good,” he noted.

“I asked about a phosphorus pie chart. It never came.”

Ms. Gilchrist said even if there is an Official Plan Amendment to allow RVs, the status of Lake Clear as a sensitive lake will not change.

“The ministry will not support taking away the sensitive lake designation,” she said.

Coun. Roesner said if something is put forward without the proper studies to back it up there will be an appeal to the OLT and that will be more costly for the township.

Ms. Gilchrist also pointed out the township did receive a grant of $23,000 to cover zoning by-law costs as well.

Mayor Murphy noted the decision to approve the two studies would be made at the council meeting in the evening. It was later passed during the council meeting, with the addendum to the motion noting the funding would come from reserves in 2022 and 2023.

Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader