To facilitate the construction of their proposed hydro-electric generating station at the Bala north falls, the proponent has requested to lease three properties from the Township of Muskoka Lakes, as follows:
- Portage Landing.
- South half of the Don’s Bakery parking lot.
- North half of the Precambrian Shield parking lot (for which the Township has a License of Occupation from the Ministry of Natural Resources).
As the proposed construction would likely take more than two years, these would be long-term leases. These property locations are shown here.
There are many issues which may not be adequately addressed by the lease negotiations, as were presented in this delegation by the Moon River Property Owners’ Association at the September 18, 2015 Township of Muskoka Lakes Council meeting, for example:
- The proponent still has a $3,000,000 lawsuit from 2013 outstanding against both the Township of Muskoka Lakes and Ministry of Natural Resources – a concern as the proponent still needs crucial construction approvals from both.
As good faith negotiations may not be possible with this lawsuit outstanding, the Township should first require the proponent withdraw and cancel all legal action against the Township before any lease negotiations continue.
- As noted on the Township’s web site here, the Township’s Portage Landing land is designated under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act, and the protected Heritage Attributes include:
- “The Unobstructed views…across the north and south channels of the Bala Falls, and towards Margaret Burgess Park.”
- “The presence of trees”.
- “The Scenic views…including unobstructed views to the historic split trunk maple tree (Native Marker Tree), the North Bala Falls and the north rocky shore”.
- “the absence of artificial lighting and buildings.”
So there needs to be a way to ensure these protected heritage attributes are either not affected or would be adequately restored (even if the proponent went bankrupt).
- The proponent has stated that if they are allowed to use the Township’s Portage Landing to facilitate the proposed construction, then the proponent would not impact Margaret Burgess Park. As we’ve already seen from the proponent not permitting the MRPOA’s free Canada Day celebration this past summer, there needs to be a way to enforce this commitment from the proponent. Unfortunately this could not be enforced through a lease since the Township does not own Margaret Burgess Park.
As the District Municipality of Muskoka determined before they learned that the MNR did not own the land under the District’s bridge, the only way to provide the protection needed is to require the proponent provide a Letter of Credit. Given the potential impacts and costs to the Township, this Letter of Credit should be for at least $1,000,000.
The only way to ensure that the proponent would:
- Restore Portage Landing adequately (or that the Township has the funds to do this if the proponent goes bankrupt and abandons the site in an unsafe condition).
- Make all lease payments as required.
- Not impact Margaret Burgess Park.
Is to require they provide a $1,000,000 Letter of Credit to the Township of Muskoka Lakes.
Request to the Township of Muskoka Lakes Council
As part of the lease negotiations with the proponent, the Council of the Township of Muskoka Lakes Council should therefore require that the proponent:
- Be required to cancel all legal action against the Township before any lease negotiations continue.
- Inform the Township how the Heritage Attributes of Portage Landing would be protected.
- Provide a $1,000,000 Letter of Credit to the Township of Muskoka Lakes as part of any lease agreement.