Whitewater supports eight-lot development by severance process

Cobden -- Whitewater Region council has approved an Official Plan (OP) amendment that will allow a landowner to apply for individual severances to create a block of eight lots rather than dealing with them by means of a plan of subdivision.

The subject area is part of Lots 12 and 13, Ross Concession 12, in an area known as Voyageur Bay on the Ottawa River. The applicant is Joe Kowalski of White Water and Wild Lands Tours Ltd.

The requested amendment would designate the subject property an exception zone to the land division policies. If approved at the county level, it will give the green light for Mr. Kowalski to proceed to apply for the severances. In October of 2022, the previous council had supported the preliminary development proposal.

“This amendment doesn’t create the lots,” said Whitewater CAO Ivan Burton. “The applicant still has to submit eight separate severance applications.”

The eight new lots will be in addition to 15 in that block of land already created by severances over the years dating back to 2015.

Mr. Burton said a plan of subdivision would be the preferred way to develop the group of lots.

“But 15 already exist and an additional eight won’t bring a much greater impact,” he said. “A plan of subdivision would not bring any great additional value to this.”

The requirements for various studies, including a land use planning study, and archeological assessment, and a land use planning study, will be required for the individual severances just as they would for a plan of subdivision.

“These requirements have not been met yet,” Mr. Burton said. “They will be a part of the severance process. We haven’t required the applicant to spend those thousands of dollars (in advance) in the event that the OP amendment is not approved.”

Brian Whitehead of Jp2g Consultants, speaking for the applicant, addressed council via video and said there is enough flexibility in the OP to consider creating these lots by the severance process. He pointed out that of the 15 severances previously granted, the majority of them were approved under the authority of the county.

“We are not trying to circumvent any planning policies,” he said. “There will be the same requirements as for a plan of subdivision.”

He noted these severances will complete the development of that 300 to 350-acre property. Two of the previous consents were for bush lots.

Mr. Kowalski also spoke in support of the amendment. He stated that over the years he has acquired almost 4,000 acres of land in the area, ensuring the lands would be protected for years to come. In 1989 he had lobbied Parks Canada unsuccessfully to designate those lands a national park.

“It’s not a true national park,” he said of the status of the property. “My mission in life is to preserve the whitewater section on the Ottawa River. The river there is not the original river but it is flooded by the construction of the Chenaux Dam. So I don’t feel that, by developing Voyageur Bay, I am compromising my mission in life.”

He also said he believes in “Whitewater Region exceptionalism” in what it has the offer.

“I believe every one of you is on council because you believe the same thing,” he said.

In commenting on the presentations, Councillor Mark Bell noted that generally the maximum number of lots created by severance is five.

“How did we get to 23?” he asked.

Mr. Burton said that generally three lots are approved first, with another two possible subject to additional criteria with a possibility of creating more subject to even more criteria.

“The question should be, where are we going? What’s the end game?” he asked. “My position is there will likely be eight properties developed here. I don’t want to see two and two and two. What is the end goal, and what are the steps to go there?”

Coun. Bell asked if there was any requirements of a plan of subdivision that are avoided with the severance process.

Mr. Burton said one added step can be when a construction of a road to be assumed into the public road system is involved. In this case the access is by private road.

“Also, if all of the eight lots were created at once, each one would immediately be individually taxed, and that might be a substantial cost,” he said.

Coun. Bell said he, like Mr. Kowalski, is very much a “Whitewater Region exceptionalist.”

“But it comes back to, how did we get to 23 lots?” he commented. “We have to be careful moving forward that we don’t break up the very thing that makes us exceptional. However, I don’t think these eight lots will make much of a difference moving forward.”

“There’s always a tipping point,” added Councillor Chris Olmstead.

He said that having its own planner since four years ago has “helped (the township) get a better vision of where we want to be.”

“I think this development is the right thing for this area of land,” he said. “Obviously I don’t think we should be doing this every kilometer of the river.”

The township will advise Renfrew County of council’s recommendation to approve the OP amendment and then await the county’s decision.

Marei Zettler, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader