Saturday, June 14, 2008



Nappan Island broods across the Trent River from my cottage on Burnt Point as a great green wetlands fringed by trees.
The idea that it would be home to a hotel, 700 condos/cottages and a 18-hole golf course is laughable.
So it was just the right touch when the developer pitching this looney scheme to Trent Hills council promised to turn the nitrogen in all the sewage that this new cottage town would produce into laughing gas.
He told council that his new marvelous sewage system would produce nitrous oxide, among other wonders, and that the effluent would be finally sprinkled on the golf course. Hope that doesn't offend the golfers, or the board of health. But then, it was just the right touch in the most bizarre presentation to a council that I have seen since the first council meeting I ever covered in 1957. That was Whitehorse council in the Yukon, and they tried to throw me out when I showed up as the new kid editor of the Whitehorse Star.
Since then, as a reporter, columnist or editor, lately the Editor of the Toronto Sun, I have seen literally thousands of proposals being discussed by every organization from Toronto council to the Ontario Legislature and House of Commons to the House of Lords and the United Nations. I have never seen such an amateurish half-baked presentation.
To think that this would have a huge impact on the area - the equivalent of shoving a community larger than Hastings or Havelock on a sponge of an island - and it was done in such a picayune presentation, would make me sad if it wasn't for that hint of laughing gas being produced just across the Trent.
As a cottage neighbour said to me, this actually would be a marvelous addition to the area, if it was done properly and scaled down. I could boat across with him, play golf, have a nice meal, and boat back home, without driving 30 or 40 kilometres. What a wonderful asset, and our cottages would be worth a lot more.
But there is no reason t0 expect that that would be the final result considering how the scheme has been launched. It is ludicrous for those of us who have boated, fished or swam around most of the island for decades to expect that this scheme, as proposed, would not be a disaster that would litter the landscape with shacks, maybe a new bridge to replace the present midget, and maybe a foot path.
It is just too large. It is in the wrong place.To approve this scheme as it stands would be a violation of the trust that all the property owners in this area have in their neighbours who are councillors.
You just can't take an area where people have cottaged for half a century, building new additions and septic tanks and lanes and bunkies, knowing where the weed beds are and the stumps and the fishing holes, and what neighbor will help you with the latest project and what neighbour will only promise to help, and then plop down in the middle of all this some grand scheme that will make someone a lot of money, and leave behind a lot of frustrated owners/renters who don't understand that the island on which their new summer homes sit was under intense environmental pressure before they bought in.
The fact that the nooks and crannies of the Trent are already choked with weeds, that some cottagers may well go on tax strikes since they can no longer use the water in front of their cottage, that the famous fishing of the past has disappeared, that two sides of Nappan Island really are swamp, all these facts existed before this scheme was proposed.
And this proposal will only make it worse.This is not NIMBYism. It is reality. New jobs would be wonderful for an area already staggering from closures like GM.
But when Canada is dancing with the devil of recession, when the cottage boom may be expiring due to high taxes and higher gasoline costs, it is easy to see that this scheme will be so constrained by costs that the developers will have to be dragged kicking and screaming to do anything that doesn't ruin the environment.
I just built an addition. Before I could go ahead, I needed architect's plans, complete with engineering info, and various permits and approvals from the Lower Trent Conservation Authority and the municipality. I had to spend considerable money and considerable time BEFORE I got the building permit. And the zoning did not have to be changed.
To suggest that any zoning change, even one with a gigantic Hold stamped all over it, be given this developer, means that the municipality is being asked to gift a special deal for money boys from Toronto that would not be given to any existing local taxpayer.
Hector Macmillan, the mayor, astutely observed that the colorful propaganda presented to council was "generic." This proposal should not go ahead, even greatly scaled down, until every bit of info is no longer just borrowed off the Internet but is actually specific to Nappan Island.
If I had been a councillor hearing this scheme, I would have told the developers that I felt insulted to be treated as if I was just some rube on the back 40.
But then, there's always the laughing gas to make us feel mellow while the developer is acting like a dentist trying to pull all of our wisdom teeth at once.'

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