Manitoulin Planning Board gives approval to development on Little Lake Huron Road

GORE BAY – Despite concerns with getting emergency vehicles like fire trucks down the Little Lake Huron Road in the Township of Robinson, the Manitoulin Planning Board (MPB) has followed prescribed regulations by the province to allow development of a new seasonal residence on the road, as it does not have responsibility for maintaining the road or mandating anyone to improve the road.

“I agree we have to follow our own rules. Whether it is a private owner of the road, we don’t have responsibility for the road or the condition of it,” stated MPB member Rob Brown at a meeting last week. At the beginning of the meeting he had voiced his concern with “the terrible road access and conditions. We’re not sure about fire protection and other vehicles being able to access the road.”

“On the opinion that it is a terrible road access, I’ve travelled down that road since the 1960s and the road is in better shape right now than I’ve ever seen it,” stated Hugh McLaughlin, representing his clients Michel Simard and David Falat, who have applied for development work on their property.

Doug Wismer, Robinson Township fire chief, attended the meeting. He told the board, “I’ve had occasion to travel on the road, it is way too rough to bring fire trucks at a good speed down that road. There is no way we could provide timely fire protection. And it’s going to take more than a few loads of gravel to correct it. The road is “in bad shape, and in some places worse than bad.”

The landowners of the Little Lake Huron Road area have deeded right of way from the highway to the road, MPB secretary-treasurer Theresa Carlisle told the board. She pointed out the Robinson Township Local Roads Board was contacted when the proposal for development was applied for, and the board indicated it has no problems with the road. 

The road is in bad condition, said Mr. Wismer. Part of it is sand and some alvar, and there are cracks in the alvar and cobblestone areas. And there is overgrown brush down the road, both in width and height, that make it that much more difficult to travel on.  

When asked what the obligations of the MPB are in this case, and who owns the road, Ms. Carlisle explained Official Plan and provincial policy standards speak to that. 

It was pointed out that Jake Diebolt, GIS technician/coordinator for MPB had taken a tour of the road on June 17 and was able to travel down the road. “lt’s travelable by emergency vehicles,” said Ms. Carlisle. Board member Dan Osborne said, “I think we would be overstepping our boundaries (if we reject the application to amend the current zoning bylaw). It is the roads board and township that have to decide if the road is travelable, not our board.”

It was noted that it is a right of way, not a road.

“You’ve touched on something here Dan,” said Mr. Brown. “It’s private property. Unless it’s reversed and they service and bring the road up to provincial standards so it is deemed a road, it’s out of our bounds.”

Ms. Carlisle said this application was brought to the MPB, “when a planning application is made and we approve an application  planning application in way, MPB is the authority. When we approve we agree to the provincial policy statement. The road is travelable but can be improved.” 

“The fire chief said the road isn’t travelable for the fire trucks,” said board chair Richard Stephens. 

Board member Tim Mackinlay said, “If someone on the road is having a heart attack at 3 am the road can be negotiated, but not in a timely manner. It is debatable if the fire trucks can get down there, it would definitely take time, and depending on where we have to respond to on the road it could take 40 minutes to get there.” 

“Personally, I think there needs to be a compromise here,” said board member Doug Head. “The roads board needs to make sure brushing is done, and someone has to make sure that some tax money is going into improving the road conditions.” 

“I totally agree with Tim and Doug,” said Mr. Brown. 

Rob Campbell, who owns property on Little Lake Huron Road said, “we own property down there. The road is in poor condition.” He noted his property is about seven kilometres down the road, and noted that he couldn’t get insurance on his property. 

“So, you’re not depending on the fire department to get down the road,” said Mr. Stephens. “I just wonder if people on the road would pitch in (funds) to have work done on the road?”

“It is beyond our scope,” said Mr. Osborne. “We can relay concerns but if the roads board and township have no concerns, we don’t have authority on this.”  

“Can we attach concerns to this file, just to let them know of the fire department concerns?”asked Mr. Mackinlay.

Board member Ken Noland put forward the motion approving the application to amend the zoning bylaw to allow for development of a seasonal cottage on the property, with Lee Hayden seconding the motion.

Mr. Hayden said, “we can all agree the road needs work but as long as the roads board says the road is accessible that is as far as we can go.”

“I agree with Lee, we can get down there, but it’s going to take time,” said Mr. Mackinlay, who is a member of the Robinson Township fire department.

No one objected to the amendment to the zoning bylaw being passed to allow for the seasonal dwelling to be constructed.