Approximately 130 people attended the September 9 Wentworth council meeting to discuss a resort proposal in the township. Photo: James Morgan

Residents object to resort proposal in Wentworth, call for mayor’s resignation

Residents of the Lake Louisa area of Wentworth are angry about plans for a resort to be located near Lake Louisa. About 130 people crowded into the community centre at the September 9 council meeting to voice their opposition and concerns about the possible project.

In January of this year, a group of investors and developer Oliver Tham expressed interest in developing an “integrated tourism” resort.

Mayor Jason Morrison was absent from the September 9 meeting, so Councillor Maurice Pilon acted as chairperson. Pilon told the crowd that Morrison was in Montréal for family reasons.

Lake Louisa Property Owners Association (LLPOA) spokesperson Karl Wockner asked if changes to zoning regulations passed in September 2018 permit golf course development in the area.

“I’m not going to comment on that tonight,” said Pilon, prompting jeers from the audience.

However, Pilon later said that he does object to golf course development.

Wockner then referred to a photo of a meeting that supposedly took place in August 2018 before the zoning changes were made where Mayor Jason Morrison is seen sitting beside Oliver Tham.  Wockner said that means the mayor is too closely linked with the development proposal and LLPOA wants him to resign immediately.

Councillor Jay Brothers claimed that the meeting took place in Gore Township and not in Wentworth.

Morrison worked as an inspector for Gore prior to becoming mayor of Wentworth.

Pilon assured the audience that there would be further community meetings to gather input on the resort proposal.  He presumed that Tham would also meet with Wentworth residents.

Accusations were made from the audience that the township did not give proper notice of the zoning changes made in September 2018.

Director-General Natalie Black said all proper communication procedures, which include online and print notices, were followed.

Black also explained to the audience that many of the changes were made in order to comply with Orientation 10, a new zoning policy directive from the Québec government.

Council approved a resolution to carefully consult with residents about the resort proposal.  A report based on comments that have already been gathered on the plan will be made available in about one week.  It is known as the Ryan Report because of the name of the firm hired to prepare it. Black and Pilon assured the audience that further comments will be accepted.

During the second question period of the meeting, Pilon could not answer why Oliver Tham had been present at the alleged meeting in Gore where the photo of him sitting beside Morrison had been taken. Pilon also said he has not met Tham personally.

Wockner asked if there could be an unbiased evaluation of the proposal and asked why the LLPOA’s environment committee was not consulted in 2018 when the zoning changes were passed.  He said the permitted uses under the new law include golf courses, hotels, vacation homes, aircraft landing strips, casinos, and shooting ranges.

Wockner questioned if the project is in the interests of the environment and what residents want.

Pilon and Brothers both emphasized there is not yet an actual resort project.  Brothers said it is not even known if the land in question has been sold for development.

Black explained to the audience that the permitted uses under the zoning changes are a result of Orientation 10 which designated Wentworth as an area for recreational tourism.

However, the municipality does have the ability to restrict the form of the permitted uses, such as limiting hotels to a maximum number of stories.

The LLPOA also has concerns about the Ryan Report itself.  In an interview following the council meeting, Wockner said the company, Ryan Affaires Publiques, is also a lobbying firm and argues that the report was designed to guide the developer through the approval process.

Wockner said the report published the names of residents opposed to the resort but withheld the names of the residents who made comments in support of it.

He reiterated the LLPOA’s demand that Jason Morrison resign as mayor.

“Mr. Mayor has put himself in a position where his photo has been used as a promotional document for commercial interests,” said Wockner.

James Morgan

James Morgan is a freelance contributor. He has worked for several print and broadcast media outlets. James loves the history, natural beauty, and people of eastern Ontario and western Quebec.

jamesmorgan has 1855 posts and counting.See all posts by jamesmorgan

4 thoughts on “Residents object to resort proposal in Wentworth, call for mayor’s resignation

  • September 12, 2019 at 4:55 pm

    I think a resort anywhere in an area where jobs are limited is a good idea. Not only local jobs but local businesses will pop up too. Which will bring even more local jobs.

  • Pingback:Sept. 9th Wentworth council meeting report in The Review - LLPOA - APLL

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  • September 13, 2019 at 2:18 pm

    My family and I are quite concerned about the development proposal worth $2 billion dollars proposed for the north side of Lake Louisa in Wentworth. We are concerned about how it will change the entire region by changing the look and feel of it but also the environmental impacts due to the project, particularly the impacts to our waters from the golf course that is proposed in the watershed.

    Not only are we concerned about the project’s impact, we are also concerned about how certain members of the council are conducting themselves. We are starting to question ourselves whether we can trust them to act in the residents interests.

    As indicated in the article by Mr. Morgan, zoning changes occurred in September 2018 to modify or update the bylaws that existed at the time. Out of pure luck for the developer, many of the zoning changes are very favourable to the developer, such as the addition of building with up to 100 hotels rooms in RU-6 (deemed rural area). Previously only single homes on a 1 acre lot was allowed with very limited commercial development. Now you can build a large range of things in this zone including marinas, hotels, etc.

    The municipality is telling us they followed the process (les règles de l’art). The residents (myself included) at the time were asleep at the switch and not paying much attention to what what happening at the council meetings and the bylaws went through without anyone noticing. Since last winter and spring, the residents are now aware of the project, the bylaw modifications and we have been showing up at council meetings, participating in faulty consultative process, sending written correspondance to the municipality asking them to act now to rectify the errors made in September 2018. Despite months of engaging directly with the Municipality to ask for concrete actions to protect our watershed before the proponent submits its project, I have yet to see an open mind about this. There is always an excuse for not taking proactive steps.

    And now, this week, we find out that certain members of the Council met with the developer, before he was a registered lobbyist, in the municipal office of Gore (and not the municipal office of Wentworth). Why would that be? I really wonder, don’t you? It would be very interesting to know who in Gore and Argenteuil may have facilitated this meeting and why were they involved in the facilitation of the meeting if it did not concern the municipality of Gore.

    Our mayor told us that he had only met with the developer in the fall of 2019 and then after checking it was in early December 2018. The date suddenly changed because the LLPOA presented the dates each of the people working for the developer registered as lobbyists. He also told us that he had entered into a non-disclosure agreement and that he could not release proprietary information when he was asked why certain details of the projects were withheld when the project was first presented to us. You see, an engaged resident, active on social media found a site plan of the project with the developer standing right next to it, which uncovered a less pretty picture than what was presented by council in early winter 2019. This site plan had a helipad, biosphere, entrainement/convention venue, a sports facility, a golf course in the wetland area, hotel complexes, single home residences, vacation homes).

    When the municipality what ATIP’ed, there was no such non-disclosure agreement signed by the Mayor, at least one could not be produced. A lot of things are not adding up Mr. Mayor. Perhaps it is time to take a break from politics.

    For those interested, this is how the project was described to us in winter 2019 (note the slide titled “Opportunities and Constraints”). :


    And this is what one resident uncovered on social media.

    You will note that the picture presented in the presentation by Wentworth is very general and that generally the presentation is very favorable to the developer.

    The Wentworth presentation has been taken down the resource pages from Wentworth website but they have not yet cancelled the link (at least for now).

    I continue to press the municipality to please take proactive steps to change the bylaws to ensure there is better protection of the watershed, before the proponent files its project.

    A concerned citizen and her extended family.

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