TEHKUMMAH—A developer exploring options to purchase and develop the historic Michael’s Bay property in Tehkummah brought his concept to the municipal council recently, answering local concerns and addressing issues raised by Reeve Gary Brown and his council, speaking with individuals about the plans following the meeting.
Jean-Marc ‘JM’ Pellerin is currently in negotiations to purchase the 650-acre Michael’s Bay property, including the Royal Michael’s Bay restaurant and chalets associated with the property. Mr. Pellerin’s group plans to build “resort-style living, seasonal and year-round tasteful homes.” Their plans include a “resort style” hotel to be built on the property. The concept received early pushback from local historical activist Doug Tracy of Little Current, who has voiced strong opposition to any plans to develop on “the foundations of our ancestors.” Mr. Tracy is adamant that the historic Michael’s Bay townsite be preserved from any development plans, with the preferred option being to create a park.
“I think things went pretty well,” said Reeve Brown, following the meeting which he described as very civil and well-received. “It was a pretty good presentation. The developer introduced himself to council and took time out to meet with people after the council meeting.”
Reeve Brown said that he and his council were primarily concerned with ensuring that all regulations and proper procedures are followed in the development. “There are amendments that need to be made to the Official Plan around planned development, we need to see a proper plan of subdivision and there has to be an archeological assessment completed,” he said.
Mr. Pellerin, the developer, agreed with Reeve Brown’s assessment of the meeting. “I do think it went pretty well,” he said. “It was a positive meeting, I think. Everyone was very polite and thoughtful. We are hearing some good stuff following the meeting, and some bad stuff. But I did have the opportunity to address our view after I had the opportunity to speak to people about their concerns. The response so far has been quite positive, except for one individual.”
Mr. Pellerin said that he was informed that individual did not speak for the Michael’s Bay Historical Society or for the township. “He doesn’t speak for the community,” said Mr. Pellerin. That being said, Mr. Pellerin said he hopes that eventually everyone will come to see the plans in a positive light. “For a project like this to come together you need the cooperation of everyone,” he said. “Then you can proceed in a positive fashion.”
Mr. Pellerin added that the property’s current owners have provided him with a letter authorizing him to restrict access to the property to only those with his express written consent.
Mr. Pellerin said that his group was in full agreement with the municipal council on proceeding according to the rules and regulations. “That goes for everyone involved,” he said. “We plan to follow the regulations and the rules set down by the OMB (Ontario Municipal Board) and we expect that the town and the planning board will do the same.”
The developer said that the first order of business will be completing the archeological assessment and that, in part, led to restricting access to the property. “We need to know what is there, the facts,” he said. “We get a different story from everyone we talk to and each of those stories conflicts with the other.” Mr. Pellerin said that everything that has come to light so far appears to be based on anecdotal evidence.
“A proper phase I (archeological assessment) for this property has never been completed,” said Mr. Pellerin. “The archeological assessment will give us the facts, but we can’t have people wandering in and out while that is going on. If we have people running all over the property the possibility exists that the report would not be conclusive. Once the assessment is done, we will have answers as to what is actually on this property.”
Once the archeological assessment is complete a proper plan of subdivision must be prepared.
Mr. Pellerin addressed the question of why so much investment is being made into what appears, on the face of it, to be a very remote property. “You know people said the same things about Muskoka when the development first began to be explored there,” he said. “It didn’t make sense to a lot of people who were looking at it at the time.” Time has changed that perspective, he noted, with the popular summer destination becoming home to some of the most valuable recreation property in the province.
The developer pointed out that travel time from Richmond Hill to Michael’s Bay in the summertime with the ferry running compares very favorably to the running time, with traffic, to the Muskokas. “It is still a three-hour drive,” he said. Add to that the lower costs of property maintenance and relatively pristine setting and he is convinced that the region is a winner all round.
Travelling in to the meeting during a raging snow storm, Mr. Pellerin joked about the municipality using the extra tax revenue for snowplowing.
“People were suggesting that there was nothing in the development for the community,” he said. “But when you take into account the development fees, the building permits, the added assessment for the tax base, there is a lot of positive impact for the community.”
“People also asked if there will be any jobs,” said Mr. Pellerin. “There are no ifs ands or buts about it, there will definitely be jobs.”
Mr. Pellerin said that he plans to be very visible in the community. “I will be in the restaurant and in and out of stores on the Island,” he said. “All I ask is that if people have any questions, if they want to know the answers, don’t just take the information being put about out there, stop me and ask. We have nothing to hide. This will be a great benefit to everyone who is already here on Manitoulin.”
Reeve Brown said that following the meeting with Mr. Pellerin he felt that any development must take into account “the natural park-like setting of the property, the heritage aspect of Michael’s Bay and the grave sites have to be respected,” but then added “I think Mr. Pellerin understood that.”