KAWARTHA LAKES-At least 23 residents filed letters of concern or objection against a possible new development at the Royal Resort on Balsam Lake near Coboconk.
The owners of the Royal Resort filed an application with the city in 2018 to rezone a piece of land they wish to purchase behind the resort. The proposal would see the zoning change from agricultural to commercial C3. Commercial C3 zoning would allow for a marina, restaurant, hotel, motel, lodge, boat rentals, boat sales and more.
The proposal was the subject of a planning meeting on Wednesday.
The original application said the additional property would be needed because the septic system for the resort is on the severed lot. They planned to add a basketball court, tennis court and water park on the property, according to documents filed with the City.
The owners of the resort also requested approval to purchase a piece of adjacent waterfront land, remove eight cottages and build a new, 2 story, 30 unit hotel. Although officials with the City told residents there was nothing officially stating that part of the plan, Kawartha 411 news has obtained documents showing otherwise.
A number of residents expressed concern about that proposal.
“We can’t imagine seeing something like that here. A 30 room, 2 story hotel with waterpark and tennis courts directly beside residential properties and where current cottages are lcoated would be irresponsible and will have serious effects on myself and the other properties on Mason Lane and neighbouring properties on Balsam Lake.” said Greg Houston.
Mayor Andy Letham commented that communication is key and encouraged both parties to come together to find common ground.
The property is owned by a corporation called Canada Royal Resort Inc. The owner is listed as Liqing Jiang, but a man named Kai Chen is named as the “applicant” on the paperwork filed with the City.
Chen said, “They think I’m going to build a gigantic thing on the land or do something crazy. We are willing to work with the city to see what we can do to reduce the impact of the resort.”
Some residents expressed concern about an increase in traffic in the area and the impact to the ecosystem.
“Since the current owners of the Royal Resort took it over we have watched illegal repairs to the shoreline including concrete work, and shoreline restorations not to mention open burning of rubbish and waste during fire ban periods. We have seen clear cutting of the forest that is adjacent to the existing cottages.” Houston said in a letter to council, “Clearly the current owners have no regard for the environment or the neighboring properties. To this date we have seen no commercial activity and no local trades employed”
“This has caused a high level of stress in our local community. Staff recommended approval of the application and I don’ t understand that, how that can happen before staff has heard concerns from the community.” Karen Henley explained. She has a cottage nearby.
The new corporation has owned the resort for approximately 5 years. During that time there’s been some work done but the resort has never opened to the public according to neighbours.
Henley feels the owner doesn’t have the experience required to pull off a project of this magnitude.
“I have done by due diligence and I believe this is a foreign investment group and I am not convinced this would be a successful outcome for our area. Upon first review of the applications submitted, my initial observation was this is a pretty sketchy and incomplete application for such a large development of a luxury 2 storey hotel, waterpark, and other recreational activities.” Henley said.
City staff had already recommended the application be approved with a Holding symbol being placed on it stating:
“A holding symbol ‘H’ be placed on the overall lands, allowing existing uses to continue, but that would require an expansion to be subject to further land use planning, environmental, servicing, and traffic review as deemed necessary by City Departments and external agencies and subject to site plan approval prior to removal of the Holding symbol by Council.” said the staff report.
Chen told the committee he was not doing anything like what was described by residents and said he was open to having the application approved with the holding symbol.
“On the current zoning I can do a lot of things but with a hold symbol on my zoning it means I have no rights the city has maximum control over why we do.”
However, given the numerous concerns raised by residents planning committee decided to refer the application back to staff for clarification on the issues as well as planning another public meeting.
Residents say they want to see site plans for the development before the next meeting. “The applicants should be encouraged to submit accurate and thorough applications.” Henley said.
According to City staff, site plans are expensive for the developer and usually aren’t required until after approvals are given by the City.