Save Victoria Point
Look for our Petition to sign to “Save Orillia Wetlands”
A Toronto-area developer, River Oaks Group is preparing to submit a request for a zoning amendment to the City of Orillia in order to construct a 140 unit retirement residence on Victoria Crescent, across from Heyden Avenue. This requires a request for a higher density zoning change. The impact of such a facility, larger than Leacock Place, located here, away from city amenities, amid pristine ecologically sensitive wetlands, requires some critical examination.
Leacock Retirement Home
On January 15th, the developer hosted a public information evening to which all property owners within close proximity (400 feet) were invited. Only the minimum required residents near the wetlands were given notice, the rest of us were not informed.
The meeting attendance was beyond the developer’s expectations and the consensus from the residents was that this project should not proceed as requested. It was made clear that this project would utilize all available land that is not specifically designated wetlands and that most trees would be cleared to accommodate the 3 storey building and corresponding parking lot.
Over one hundred residents have signed up with the VPRA to be kept informed. The Victoria Point Ratepayers Association has been
rekindled, and a few of us have started meeting to share ideas and to begin formulating a plan of action.
VPRA Initial Concern:
Aside from the environmental concerns, the question of services such as sewer, sidewalks, bus service and heavy truck traffic was not adequately addressed at the presentation. We were left with the understanding by the developer this would fall on the City to plan, fund, implement and maintain.
On the environmental side, it was pointed out by residents that the wetlands and the limited upland, work hand in hand as part of the ecosystem. Anyone that knows what an amphibious animal is, knows that building over the uplands, particularly in such a high density, is not conducive to a sustainable environment.
A retirement residence, in this location, simply makes no sense. The residents and the City have previously successfully challenged this same developer at the OMB. This impending request for higher density zoning goes against the existing zoning allowed by the Ontario Government OMB decision (PL970556 found in reference library). How is the City going to approach this re-zoning request? We are certainly not anti-development in Orillia, but we are opposed and question the logic behind existing protected and adjacent lands being targeted for zoning change when there is plenty of existing land for development in Orillia already properly serviced by existing infrastructure (roads, sewers, sidewalks, bus).
Some thoughts on why building a Retirement Residence in the middle of an integral, functioning Wetland makes no sense:
The current landowner of the 120 acres of wetland on Victoria Point has recently proposed to build a 140 unit seniors residence in the small area of remaining upland. This suggested senior housing project will be 3 stories high, take down most trees with a very large footprint and have more units than Leacock Place.
Such a development, in this location, requires critical review. Some of the reasons brought forward to date are:
- The remaining uplands are part of the wetland eco-system. Cutting down virtually all the trees for the building and parking lot will have a detrimental effect on this balance.
- Seniors will be isolated and removed from required facilities.
- Bus service and sidewalks will need to be installed and maintained by the city at public cost.
- There are no parks or gathering places and there is no access to the lake.
- There is no proximity to shopping or medical facilities, services required by seniors.
- One pretty much needs a car to live on the point adding to traffic on our secondary road.
- The Victoria Point is a mixture of permanent homes and seasonal cottages, a fair distance from downtown. The increased traffic from senior residents, staff and visitors would change the dynamics of this neighborhood.
- This complex will be surrounded on three sides by environmentally significant wetlands. Many homes in the area already have flooding issues every spring. Runoff from this development will only exacerbate the problem.
- The existing and abundant wildlife which forms such an integral part of this community will be detrimentally impacted. Deer, fox, coyotes and moose are frequent visitors to the area while turtles and wild turkeys are permanent residents. The neighborhood lives in harmony with nature.
- Forest Avenue has notorious water filled ditches on both sides, which would make sidewalks almost impossible, forcing seniors to walk on the road.
- The increased traffic (resident, visitors, employees, service and supply vehicles, paramedic and fire, taxi, etc.) on Victoria, Gill and Forest Avenue (already restricted with load limits) would stress the core of the wetland area, whereby some remaining birds and larger wildlife would subsequently disappear.
Your neighborhood needs your help. We need to come together and make our voice heard, and take action to address this issue. It is vitally important that we all make it clear to our elected representatives, that this suggested plan is ill conceived and detrimental to the environment and the neighbourhood and will be costly to the City of Orillia, and we the ratepayers.
Want to be notified of further developments? The VPRA is made up of people like you, who are busy, but who are concerned enough to commit a little bit of their time. Please reach us via the “Stay Informed” form to your right.
At this point the residents are only discussing 2 options. We have neighbours that support each.
Option 1 - Try to convince the owners of the property to donate all the land to the city, in exchange for a more suitable site for a retirement residence within the city proper. This entire pristine wetland property should all have been designated conservation land a long time ago. This proposal sets this right, but requires some vision by our elected officials, land owner, area residents and conservation groups that should be bold enough to take action. Working together co-operatively would make this happen. In the future, the residents would like to see a facility for education and the study of marsh wildlife. Turn this area into a learning experience for the kids. This would benefit future generations and would turn this wetland into a productive and viable visitor attraction for the City.
Option 2 - Support the current zoning as designated by the OMB in 1998 and is the current City of Orillia plan. This OMB ruling was a compromise that allowed the land owner to build low density homes on the 2 areas of higher ground that might be suitable for development. There were many environmental restrictions placed on such development. Supporters of this position feel that although the developer’s proposal has changed, none of the environmental factors have changed. Given today’s tighter environmental regulations, the OMB may not even allow what was granted 16 years ago. This is an option for the status quo that opposes the requested zoning change on the basis that there is no compelling reason for the City to deviate from the current designation.
In each of these options, the matter of the Lankin Canal needs to be addressed. The canal is currently owned by the developer and most Lankin residents would like to see the disputed land between their property and the canal resolved.