The Bear Estate, the popular waterfront venue for weddings and conferences at Living Water Resorts (formerly Cranberry Village) in Collingwood, is the subject of a bit of controversy these days, due in part to snapping turtles. Yes, you read that correctly.
Larry Law, the owner of The Bear Estate and Living Water Resorts, has long been the visionary behind the phased, master-planned development of the former Cranberry Village. According to the Living Waters blog, the proposed addition to the Bear Estate will take place above the original building, on the same footprint. The development of this 5-storey building will not interfere with the 15-metre buffer zone which currently protects the waterfront in that area and the recognized Provincially Sensitive Wetlands (PSW), nor will it infringe on the 1.2-metre setback there-from. Essentially, the proposed addition will go up, not out. In support of this addition, Living Waters had an update done to the original Environmental Impact Study (EIS) from 2006, upon which (amongst other things) the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority based its approval of the 15 Meter (landscaped) buffer at that time.
A group of concerned citizens, calling themselves SOS Collingwood (Save our Shoreline), sees the development as a threat to local wildlife who call that area of PSW, home. They also feel that the development doesn’t fully comply with Collingwood’s Zoning Bylaw or Official Plan. On SOS’ website, they quote the town’s official plan as follows, with regard to these lands: “… by virtue of their significant functions, attributes and linkages, are those considered to make the greatest contributions to the natural heritage of the Town of Collingwood.” SOS maintains that if this development is allowed to proceed as planned, right next to these wetlands, that “others will follow, and our pristine and ecologically rich shorelines will forever suffer.” They feel that the updated EIS was not as in-depth as it should have been. SOS is also concerned with the impact this would have on the tourism in the area.
The two groups have engaged in a bit of verbal hair-splitting, and the snapping turtle has risen to fame in media releases and letters to the Director of Planning. It seems that according to the author of the EIS, “habitat for Snapping Turtle does not exist within the proposed development area, which does not include the wetland area or the associated buffer lands.” Perhaps the upside of this controversy will be raising awareness of the snapping turtle, who is a “special concern’ species, as opposed to being ‘endangered’ or ‘threatened.”
What will happen next? At the August 13th Operations and Development Committee meeting for the Town of Collingwood, local residents and SOS Collingwood were advised by the Committee chair that the development application for the Bear Estate Collingwood, had been deferred until 2019 and would be considered by the newly elected municipal council at some point in the new year.