“A genuine campaign of fear and misinformation,” is what the Township of Wentworth is calling actions by the Lake Louisa Property Owners Association (LLPOA) over a possible resort development in the municipality.
At a raucous council meeting on September 9, the LLPOA questioned if the municipality and Mayor Jason Morrison were enabling developer Oliver Tham and his interest in building a recreational resort on a 1,550-acre property. Morrison was not present at the meeting.
The LLPOA has called for Morrison’s resignation and has been critical of zoning changes made in September 2018 that facilitate recreational tourism activities in Wentworth.
In an interview on September 19, Morrison said he has no intention of resigning and that the reason for a June 2018 meeting (where a photo was taken of him sitting next to Tham) was held because the developer wanted to introduce himself and had nothing to do with zoning changes.
The municipality has formally demanded that the LLPOA withdraw misleading information from its website and called the actions of the LLPOA an unacceptable attack on the reputation of the mayor, council, and township staff.
According to Morrison and the municipality, most of the changes resulted from the need to comply with the new Québec land use planning policy known as Orientation 10, according to Morrison and a news release issued by the township on September 13, 2019.
Morrison emphasized that public consultations, including a meeting that was not required by provincial law, were held during the process of making the zoning changes and rigorous by-laws are in place to ensure developments balance community concerns with environmental protection.
As examples, developers must sign a promoter agreement obliging them to cover the cost of new municipal infrastructure required for the project such as road or drainage improvements so that taxpayers do not have to cover the costs.
Laws protecting a great blue heron habitat in the area of the possible resort that was previously not covered by provincial laws were passed. The maximum height of a hotel in Wentworth is also limited to two storeys.
Morrison emphasized that no official project has been deposited with the municipality yet and that it is still not known if the property has been sold to Tham.
The LLPOA objects to a golf course being part of the resort over concerns that fertilizer and pesticide runoff would contaminate Lake Louisa. The township news release stated that new laws are in place requiring golf course developers to re-capture all runoff.
While the township is accusing the LLPOA’s leadership of acting in “blatant bad faith,” another property owners association is supporting the municipality. On September 21, the Dunany Community Association’s (DCA) board stated its support for the mayor and council’s efforts to balance “reasonable development” with environmental protection. The statement also rebuked the LLPOA and emphasized that the DCA does not want to be associated with the actions members of the organization have taken.
The municipality is promising to continue consultations with residents on the resort proposal.