Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 11.07.25 AMDear Friends,

Earlier this afternoon, the Ontario Municipal Board issued its long-awaited decision concerning the application by Burleigh Bay Corporation to build on the Fraser property.

One year after the completion of the hearing, we’re thrilled to tell you that the OMB has denied the developer’s application and appeals. The last significant undeveloped shoreline in the Kawarthas has been saved from a 58-unit housing development on Stony Lake.

This is an enormous victory for the Kawartha lakes community, and all those who stand up for water quality, wildlife habitat preservation and sensible development.

[Please scroll down to read our media release about the decision.]

Let’s take a moment to celebrate! This decision is the culmination of years of work, an enormous community effort, and the support of hundreds of people stepping up to protect our water, our wildlife and our rich cultural heritage.

With deep appreciation to you for your help in making this happen, to our partners at Curve Lake First Nation, and last, but certainly not least, to our tireless lawyers, David Donnelly and Anne Sabourin – who against some formidable odds guided us to victory – we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!!

Board of Directors

Jeremy Carver, Kate Reid, John McWilliams, Heather Brooks-Hill, Susan McWilliams, Jen Lewis, Pat Bourne, Bob Woosnam, Cath Kirk, Jenn Reid, Joe Carlino, Jennifer David



Press Release

OMB Decision Saves Blanding’s Turtle Habitat on Stoney Lake

Two Provincially Significant Wetlands and 6.2 km Undeveloped Shoreline Protected


Peterborough—The last significant undeveloped shoreline in the Kawarthas has been saved from a 58-unit housing development on Stoney Lake, immediately adjacent to Burleigh Falls.


The Vancouver-based developer Burleigh Bay Corporation (“BBC”) had planned to build the community, plus 72-slip marina, fitness facility, clubhouse, guest cottages, swimming pool, parking lots and internal roadway system in two provincially significant wetlands (“PSWs”), containing the habitat of the “Threatened” Blanding’s turtle and muskellunge.


“We’re elated. This gives the Kawarthas a breathtaking opportunity to preserve an extraordinary natural setting that can’t be replaced,” said Heather Brooks-Hill, a third-generation Stoney Lake resident and Director of the Friends of Fraser Wetlands (“FFW”).


The Board cited the location of the development in and around the PSWs as one of the most “compelling” reasons for denying approval.  The Decision endorses the testimony of FFW expert Mr. Gord Miller, former Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, who testified that wetland complexes must be afforded a higher degree of protection and cannot be isolated.  The Board held, “As Mr. Miller stated, ‘the stakes are high’ given the significance of endangered species, a complex ecological system of entwined elements and functions and highly sensitive wetlands” on the site.
The site is believed to contain over 450 different species, a number of which are endangered or threatened.  The Board also accepted FFW’s expert Mr. D. Janus’ opinion that 95% of the site is habitat for the Blanding’s turtle, a threatened species.


The developer’s expert, “without basis upon any ecological or scientific fact, arbitrarily ‘guesstimated’ wildlife movements,” and critically failed to mitigate negative impacts.


“Our Elders asked us to save this wilderness and all the species in it, to respect the ancestors and the land they frequented many years ago.  These historic reminders were told at Council and at the hearing, and evidence is still in abundance all along the north shore of Stoney Lake,” said Chief Phyllis Williams of Curve Lake First Nation, a party to the 19-day hearing, supported by the Alderville, Hiawatha and Scugog First Nations.  The hearing took place partly on the Reserve, a first for the OMB.


The development was proposed on 273 ha (675-acres) of mostly forest and wetlands, in Peterborough County.  The site is believed by local First Nations to be connected to the Lovesick Lake fishing weirs, local rock cairns and the Petroyglyphs, known as the Teaching Rocks.


Dr. Ken Howard, dubbed the “Wayne Gretzky” of hydrogeology, testified for FFW at the hearing that the aquifer is far too weak to sustain the domestic water needs of the proposed development and that water taking could interfere with local wetlands (PSWs) and wells.  He estimated the aquifer’s safe yield will only service 4 residents, not the hundreds expected on peak, summer weekends.  Mr. B. Parsons testified to serious concerns remaining with sewage disposal and stormwater management.


“This is a spectacular result for residents, First Nations’ rights, their relationship to the land, and the environment, on par with great place-names of Ontario environmental victories like Temagami and the Oak Ridges Moraine,” said David Donnelly, counsel to FFW and Curve Lake First Nation.


“The decision is a new roadmap for land-use protection for Provincially Significant Wetlands and Blanding’s Turtle habitat,” Donnelly added.  “Given that the Township produced no environmental evidence and there is no Conservation Authority in the area, the decision vividly underscores the necessity and value of citizen group participation in protecting the planet,” Donnelly added.





OMB Update


It’s February 11, 2017, and there is no news yet on the OMB decision!

And for that, we’re very grateful, because just this week the lawyer for North Kawartha Township finally submitted to the OMB the Township’s Resolution 15-397 stating its opposition to the development of the Fraser Wetlands – a position that was not clearly demonstrated during the OMB Hearing. (You’ll recall that we were in touch after the Hearing to let you know that in a puzzling turn of events the Township’s solicitor had failed during the hearing to mention the Township’s Resolution and indeed its stated position.)

This news comes as a result of a good deal of agitation, the guidance of our fantastic legal team, David and Anne, our attendance at Council meetings in December (thank you to everyone who came!), and the more-than 100 letters that the Township received from you – letters that contained diverse viewpoints, reasoned arguments, and no small amount of pressure! (We imagine the Township’s Clerk, who handles all correspondence, is as happy as we are that this unexpected hitch has been resolved!)

With this news, we are now hopeful that the OMB Chair will have a more accurate impression of the Township’s position regarding the development plan.

Thank you to everyone who pitched in to make this happen!

Now, we wait.

[The picture, below left, shows the Fraser property’s west bay, which is the proposed site of more than a dozen large homes.]

Follow-up to December 6th North Kawartha Council Meeting


Two weeks ago we wrote to you asking for your help, and you came through in spades!

Close to 100 of you wrote to the North Kawartha Council supporting FFW’s two requests:

That FFW be recognized as a delegation at their December 6th Council meeting;

and that Council pass a motion to clarify their position regarding the development of the Fraser property.

Why did FFW makes these requests? Because, despite Council’s Resolution (15-397) to instruct the Township solicitor to oppose the development at the OMB, the Township solicitor took a very different position, one of proceed-with-caution.

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Despite the time of year, there was a strong turn out of FFW supporters, several of whom had come some distance to attend.

Council rejected or ignored FFW’s request for time on the agenda, choosing instead to hold an in camera session to discuss FFW’s requests and the deluge of supporting letters.

After an hour behind closed doors, Council returned to the chamber to report that as their lawyer was not able to attend the meeting, the issues raised by FFW would be discussed at the next Council meeting on Tuesday, December 20th – in yet another in camera session.

UPDATE: The Agenda for the December 20th Council Meeting was published on Friday afternoon. The FFW/Fraser OMB issue will be discussed during the afternoon session @ 2:30 p.m. The afternoon session commences at 1 p.m. 

FFW will be there. We know that it’s a challenging time of year, but if you’re able, we hope that you’ll join us again.

Time is of the essence! The Council North Kawartha Township needs to clarify its position regarding the Fraser Wetlands now.

The OMB decision could arrive at any time. We think the OMB NEEDS to know Council’s true position before rendering a decision that will have an enormous impact on so many people and for generations to come.

If you’ve written a letter in support of this request, thank you! If you haven’t, please consider sending a letter today. Directly below is a template, and if you scroll down, you’ll see letters that others have written.

To North Kawartha Council,

I’m unable too attend the Council Meeting on December 20th, but I want Council to know that I strongly support the FFW’s request that Council inform the OMB by whatever route is appropriate, by Friday, December 23rd at the latest, that Council’s position has not changed since May 26, 2015 when Council passed Resolution 15-397 expressing Council’s opposition to the proposed development on the Fraser Property.



If you live or summer in North Kawartha Township, consider this: it is your tax dollars that paid for the Township solicitor and an expert witness to attend the OMB hearing full time for four weeks. Did you get value for your money?

All letters addressed to the Council can be sent via the Township clerk: Connie Parent, c.parent@northkawartha.on.ca.


Do you feel as we do that the OMB tilts toward developers and that it needs to oversee a more accountable, approachable, affordable process for citizens and citizen groups such as FFW?

The province has been conducting a much needed public review of the OMB. Tim Gray, executive director of Environmental Defence, summarizes the problems with the OMB and the need for change. Click here to read his thoughts and to sign a petition exhorting the province to fix the OMB.

Your support makes all the difference.


Please join us on December 6th!

Dear Friends,

Things have taken yet another unexpected turn!

Despite a deluge of letters requesting that the North Kawartha Council make room on the agenda of their Tuesday, December 6th Council meeting, they’ve refused to accommodate an FFW delegation seeking clarification as to why – contrary to their own very specific directions (see resolution below), the lawyer acting on behalf of the Township took the extraordinary step of NOT opposing the application to develop the Fraser property.



The Council has decided instead to discuss the matter in-camera sometime in the afternoon, between 1:30 and 4 pm.

Click here to see the full-day agenda for the December 6th Council session.

The afternoon session begins at 1 pm.

Though not officially recognized on the agenda, FFW will be there! We’ll be in the chambers as the Council members exit for their closed-door meeting, and we’ll be there when they return, at which time we hope that there will be some explanation as to why their clear resolution to oppose the development of the Fraser property was ignored by the lawyer representing them at the OMB hearing. Indeed, we expect that there may be a new resolution or an announcement following the closed-door session.

Please join us if you can! And do let us know if you plan to attend. We think that a chamber full of concerned citizens and ratepayers will send the Council a strong message.

Heather – heatherbrookshill@me.com
Jennifer – davidengell@sympatico.ca

Thank you!

With deep appreciation, FFW.


The Township of North Kawartha Municipal office, 280 Burleigh Street, Apsley, ON.




Urgent: Help Needed!

Dear Friends,

We have one more request to make! (And it doesn’t involve money.)

FFW has requested that a delegation be recognized and heard at the North Kawartha Township Council meeting on Tuesday, December 6th. It is our hope that we can register our deep concern over the alarmingly ambivalent closing argument (and written submission) of the Township’s lawyer in the recent OMB hearing concerning the fate of the Fraser Wetlands.

The lawyer, who is contracted by the Township to represent and counsel them, neglected to mention in his submissions the North Kawartha Township Council’s resolution (#15-397) to oppose the Burleigh Bay Corporation’s development proposal. He also failed to adequately highlight the testimony of the Township’s only witness during the hearing – its own planning consultant, who stated that the development plan did not meet the standard of the Provincial Policy Statement 2014 (a prerequisite of approval) and could not be considered good planning.

The lawyer left the strong impression that he considered the development application an “amber light” situation – one that might proceed with caution if the OMB were to stipulate a number of (unenforceable!) conditions.

We’ve come this far, we simply can’t let this pass without taking action.

We hope you’ll join us in raising the alarm over this misleading representation by writing a letter to the North Kawartha Township Council supporting the position of FFW, which is to request that the Township ask the OMB to reopen the file so that the Township can restate its position.

No need to have attended the hearing. You can simply use the following template to show your support for FFW and email your letter to the Township clerk, Connie Parent (c.parent@northkawartha.on.ca):

To North Kawartha Council,

I understand that the Friends of the Fraser Wetlands have requested to appear as a delegation before the Township Council at the Regular Meeting on December 6th. I urge you to grant the request.

Unfortunately I cannot attend the Meeting in person but I wish Council to know that I strongly support the FFW’s request that Council inform the OMB by whatever route is appropriate, that Council’s position has not changed since May 26, 2015 when Council passed Resolution 15-397 expressing Council’s opposition to the proposed development on the Fraser Property.



And here are some letters that FFW supporters have written in recent days:




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Dear Friends,

While we are still in the OMB process, the hearing itself finished with closing arguments on Friday, October 7. Written submissions from the three lawyers – representing North Kawartha Township, Burleigh Bay Corporation, and FFW/Curve Lake First Nation – are due at the OMB on Friday, October 28. After that, the OMB Chair, David Lanthier, has warned that it will take some time to wade through all of the evidence and compose a decision. We expect it to be some months before we hear that decision.

In the meantime, we can update you on the final two weeks of the hearing which progressed in much the same way as the first two – extremely well! Time and again, FFW expert witnesses demonstrated a superior grasp on the Fraser property’s hydrogeological functions, its wetland ecology, its valuable habitat features and its identified species at risk. They were consistent in their ability to undermine the developer’s witness reports and to reveal the development plan to to be wholly unsuitable for the site and dangerous to the property’s sensitive ecology.

Our planning expert, Stephen Fahner, shone a bright light on a long list of planning issues, including a new, inadequate Environmental Impact Study produced just prior to the hearing, a deficient lake capacity study and the inappropriateness of a condominium corporation as an ownership model on a Provincially Significant Wetland Complex. Ontario’s former Environmental Commissioner, Gord Miller, testified that the property is a unique and important landscape “consisting of several hundred hectares of contiguous provincially significant wetlands.” Its location adjacent to two different eco-regions, in the “land between,” where granite meets limestone, makes it an area of particularly rich biodiversity upon which a large variety of species depend.

During the final, precedent-setting week, the hearing shifted to the community centre at Curve Lake First Nation and to issues of the Fraser Property’s cultural significance. It was the first time that an OMB hearing took place on a reserve and that Traditional Knowledge Holders were qualified to speak as experts.

At the end of the hearing, David Donnelly’s closing argument was inspiring and compelling, deftly weaving together FFW’s ecological issues and Curve Lake’s cultural interests – and all the more impressive for the fact that David had “popped” down to Toronto the night before for his about-to-be married daughter’s rehearsal dinner. Well done, David!

And now we wait.

Thank you to everyone who’s contributed to this extraordinary effort, including our lawyers, David and Anne, who capped their fees and provided countless hours of work pro bono; our expert witnesses who similarly agreed to limit their bills; the Friends who volunteered to billet our lawyers and witnesses; and those who provided daytime and evening meals to the team during the hearing.

No hearing summary would be complete without a special note about our Participants – the individuals and lake groups who spent countless hours composing their convincing statements and attended the hearing to present their arguments against the proposed development – and to defend them under cross-examination by the developer’s lawyer. This was an impressively effective group who raised a variety of credible issues. Their testimony added immeasurably to our case. We’re grateful for their support and their dedication.

John Huycke on behalf of the Association of Stoney Lake Cottagers (ALSC)
Jeffrey Chalmers on behalf of the Birchcliff Property Owners Association (BPOA) in Douro-Dummer Township
Ed Wood representing Woods Island, Burleigh Channel
Rachel Corbett
Lois Wallace on behalf of the Environment Council for Clear, Ston(e)y and White Lakes
Reid Brownscombe and Pat Bourne representing the Common Participant Statement, signed by 25 individuals and groups
Holly Blefgen
Cath Kirk and Scott Wootton, whose property borders the Fraser Property
Andrea Kale Marcus

Finally, we take very seriously our responsibility as financial stewards. We weigh carefully each and every financial decision we make and are confident that we are planning and managing your donated funds in the most effective way possible.

Four weeks ago we made an urgent financial appeal. In order to pay our higher than expected hearing expenses, we needed to raise more money. The response was wonderful, and as a result, we’re almost there!

If you haven’t already, please join us in this extraordinary effort to conserve the Fraser Property – an incredible natural and cultural landscape.

The FFW legal team from Donnelly Law at the end of the hearing: from left, Kristina Matveev, student-at-law, lawyers Anne Sabourin and David Donnelly, Rachel McPherson-Duncan, Victor Intern in Environmental Law.

The Fraser Wetlands: A Natural Investment
Conserving the wetlands has benefits beyond the obvious environmental ones. It is a significant investment in the local economy which relies heavily on recreational, tourist and seasonal support — which, in turn, is dependent upon a healthy environment.

We can’t do this alone! Help save this unique natural resource – essential contributor to lake water quality and immensely diverse habitat for a wide range of species, including the at-risk Blanding’s turtle.

Ways to Donate
FFW accepts cheques mailed to the address below and e-transfers to ffwetland@gmail.com.



The circle, above, shows the location of one of the proposed development’s common areas: a marina with 72 boat slips, car parking lot, boat trailer storage and beach directly across from a marina at Burleigh Falls and just down from the locks.


We’re at Curve Lake!

Today and everyday this week, the OMB hearing will take place at the Curve Lake Community Centre, 30 Whetung Street East, Curve Lake. 9:30 a.m. start each day!


Today (Tuesday, October 4), it’s FFW planning consultant Steve Fahner followed by Dr. James Conolly, Professor of Archaeology, and Canada Research Chair, Trent University.