Billings council to consider development, concerns raised before reaching final decision

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KAGAWONG—Billings township is going to look at putting a site plan agreement in place that would allow for a significant economic development plan to take place in Kagawong, while considering several concerns raised by local residents to the planned development. 

“We have a very interesting proposal before us,” said Billings councillor Sharon Alkenbrack, who chaired a public meeting on a proposed site plan amendment to allow for development this past Monday. 

Sandra Hurcomb, of Boo-Bah-Lou Candy Corner, on behalf of her business partner Susie Harrison who owns the business Bare Naked Beauty, “one-and-a-half years ago when we first came forward with this proposal we indicated we wanted to create new retail space, and the project has since become much larger than we anticipated.”

“Susie Harrison has operated Bare Naked Beauty for the past two years, building the spa service for local residents and tourists, and products she has created on the property (which would be now located in the new development area),” said Ms. Hurcomb. “I’ve decided to open the Sugar Bush Canadian Coffee House, what would basically be described as a coffee/art house, where art and cooking lessons would be held, and where we would provide breakfast–various crepes, espresso and coffee.”

Ms. Hurcomb explained the business partners have purchased three-and-a-half acres of property off Highway 540 at the corner (where Rock Island Mini-Golf) had been located, where would be putting in glamping and pop-up tent camping units. There would be a total of three glamping units on one side and 6-8 and a future maximum of 10 camping spaces. “When I say camping, we are not looking at RVs or large trailers; at best we would be looking at pop-up tent trailers.”

“We feel this would bring needed economic development, employment and entice tourists here, to use other businesses and bring more tourism dollars here,” said Ms. Hurcomb. The glamping unit, a two story log house, would have separate accommodation facilities for those using them. 

Deborah Moore, a local resident who owns The Carter House Antiques next to the proposed development property, along with her husband Colen McKeever, did raise several concerns with the project. “We have a number of concerns with the proposal. We are definitely all for business development and generating economic development in the community. But having this in the village centre we feel is ill-conceived and will cause more difficulty in the future.”
Ms. Moore explained that the biggest concern, “is that the zoning change amendment for a tent campground park would include other things as well. Allowing a zoning change for the property would allow other uses for the property in the future as well, other temporary living structures; also there would be a precedent set. The development proponents I trust that you would do what you have proposed. But you may not own the property forever, and a future owner may be looking at more than a tent park.”

“We have tried to maintain the image of Kagawong with our business, but a tent park in the centre of the village would take away the image of Kagawong,” said Ms. Moore. She said the peacefulness of the community will also be disrupted. “In the summer Kagawong is rampant with tourists, which is great, travelling to various businesses and things to do in the community. But in the evenings everyone goes where they are staying and it is peaceful. But having 10 camping sites will directly mean at least another 20 people in one area, and since they will be on vacation they will be looking to have fun and this will mean more noise. And even if noise bylaws are put in place, people will find other areas to have fun such as travelling to the beach.”

“We have always left items out on our yard at night, but we may have to start to put them away at night with the added influx of people around,” said Ms. Moore. “And with additional people around it will mean more policing being required which means additional costs and people will be impacted by more police presence, and possibly having more people on the beaches or other areas making noise.”

“And if people are camping they will want to have campfires,” said Ms. Moore. “There is the potential for 10 camp fires, and this smoke will travel to other areas near the property, affecting other residents living near the property. And there is also the risk of a fire taking place.”

“The historical image of the community will change with this development. We have made an effort to try to fit in since we first bought our property in 1996,” said Ms. Moore. “As I said, I am all for supporting local business and development, but not if it means being beside an area. I would like council to think about all this when you are making a final decision.”

Another person at the meeting noted, “my mother’s house is right near the back of the property and the campground would be almost right at her back door. She is elderly, lives alone and understandably all of this makes her nervous. There is not much distance from her property and the development it would be right behind the garage.”

Councillors then had the opportunity to pose questions to the development proponents. 

Based on the questions posed the meeting was told permits have been acquired from the local health unit for the septic-sanitation system, and their idea is to have the largest septic system in place, 110×100 feet in size. Composting toilets would also be included in the units developed.

“The comfort station would allow for two exterior and two interior showers,” said Ms. Hurcomb. “And there would be handicapped washrooms installed as well. She further explained the camping sites are designed for families (two adults, two children), or couples. 

“We would be looking at starting with six camp sites and look to extend this if there is a need for it,” said Ms. Hurcomb. She noted an exceptional amount of parking spaces have been provided and that visitors would enter the property off Highway 540. 

“I think the project has lots of merit, and I hope all the concerns can be alleviated so everyone is happy,” stated Councillor Nora Bath-Haring. 

Councillor Sharon Alkenbrack asked how the property would be supervised. 

Ms. Hurcomb explained, “both of our businesses are kitty corner to the property. We are 100-200 yards away, very close by.”

Ms. Moore said the development will affect not only those residents within 150 yards of the property, but beyond, and she felt that possibly most area residents were not aware of the proposal. She also raised a concern as to what happens if the amendment is approved, the property is sold in the future, and new owners look at further development.  

“Council can ask for a site plan agreement,” stated Councillor Alkenbrack. There was also a concern that similar projects may be developed in other areas of the township and she said all of these proposals would have to be dealt with separately.

Council agreed it will need to take time to review the application and everything they heard at the meeting before making a final decision on the application and a site plan agreement.