‘I think it could have been handled with a lot more class than it was,’ the mayor of Tay said of Midland residents’ opposition to the housing development project and the council’s support from Midland
Between the Martyrs’ Shrine and the old green flyover on Highway 12 is the River Wye, a popular fishing spot at the mouth of scenic Georgian Bay and Wye Marsh.
On the west side of this river is the tourist and retirement town of Midland, while on the east side is the small riverside municipality of Tay Township.
And they have a spat neighbor.
The focal point of this argument is at this corner, at Tay on the Wye Heritage Marina property at 3282 Ogdens Beach Road.
In March, Tay Council passed a by-law amending the Official Plan to create a site-specific policy area, which “would permit the development of a recreational park for park model homes and Class A motorhomes and C on the lands” as an accessory use for the marina, intended “to assist the Township of Tay in providing diverse tourism and recreation opportunities along the Georgian Bay coastline”.
Directly across from Wye Heritage Marina on the Midland side are the roads to Aberdeen Blvd and Riverwalk Place, home to some of the city’s most expensive homes and condominiums.
Following the approval of Tay’s settlement, residents of Midland approached council to object to “seasonal development of the trailer park”, inciting the council. Bill Gordon will propose a notice of motion for the two representatives of Midland County Council to formally oppose the case when it next comes before County Council.
Gordon’s comments were followed later in the month by a deputation from George Dixon representing an entity called the Tiffin Basin Action Committee (TBAC), “opposing the 74 short-term rentals”,
Dixon, a former city attorney, laid the foundation for the “incompatible neighborhood” directly across from Tony Midland’s location.
“It is an almost unique situation,” explained Dixon in his deposition, “where a development project in a municipality will have no negative impact on anyone who lives and votes in that municipality, but will have major negative impacts for the people who live and vote in the municipality next door.
At its closest, about 30 meters separate the two lands from shore to shore, brush to brush, if water or ice were traversed. Realistically, it would take about three miles along Ogdens Beach Road to Highway 12, over William Street and along Pillsbury Drive to reach the intersection of Aberdeen Boulevard and Riverwalk Square.
The Dixon delegation addressed common concerns about problematic short-term rental housing that has impacted neighboring North Simcoe municipalities as well as many others across the province. Additional wildlife photos of the River Wye accompanied the presentation.
As Gordon supported the TBAC deputies and their token opposition motion, the board engaged staff in a discussion of the definitions and impacts of short-term rentals.
Mayor Stewart Strathearn said: ‘I have moved the motion, I support the motion – I support the residents as far as the municipality is able to and our professionals suggest we can do, and we will wait and see what the county planning staff is doing with what Tay Township has proposed; and then we can deal with it when the time comes.
Gordon added: ‘I think we all understand it doesn’t look good, it’s not a good fit, we wouldn’t approve of something like this if it was right next to them in our municipality’ , noting County Council opposition as the only action available to Midland.
Com. Jonathan Main and Cody Oschefski defended Midland’s two trailer homes, Leeshore Estates and Smith’s Camp, reiterating that few problems come from those areas.
Oschefski noted that there was potential for bad blood in the conversation. “We really throw our weight behind thinking we have a say in this decision. Having the county council tell them how to vote is new to me.
Deputy Mayor Mike Ross also expressed his pushback. “The thing is, if Tay had come to Midland and complained about something we were doing, I would be so offended…I don’t know how I would handle it.”
Council voted to pass Gordon’s motion as a symbolic gesture of support for its residents.
At Tay’s regular council meeting in June, Mayor Ted Walker took the time to speak about Midland’s symbolic gesture.
Walker spoke about how strange it felt to see Midland discuss the matter, particularly the seemingly unfounded statements made by “an adviser”.
“(In) making a statement like this: how much research did this adviser do on the application itself, any studies that needed to be done, did he speak to applicants, did he spoke to our head of planning?” Walker shared with Council Tay. “Just coming out and saying ‘if it was in Midland we would never approve it’ was very disappointing to me in as a neighboring municipality.”
Walker also reacted to the compatibility issue. “These lands were previously zoned industrial. That’s when the Tiffin grain elevator (was there). At one point Midland Council decided that residential development was appropriate in the area adjacent to an existing marina in Tay Township.
“The question of compatibility therefore does not rest with the council of the township of Tay. The issue of compatibility was decided many years ago by the Midland council.
While praising Oschefski’s comments about marina safety, Walker also noted the change in tone from vocal opponents of the development.
“The other thing that made me funny,” Walker began, “first, the problem was the concerns about the environment, which our studies have proven to be in fact unwarranted. And then, suddenly now, it’s an STR problem.
“Well, this marina is one of the largest freshwater marinas in Canada. I don’t know exactly how many boats they have there, but I certainly know that marinas – many if not the majority of boaters stay on boats; weekends or weekdays. And friends and relatives come to use them.
“The whole thing just disappointed me. I think it could have been handled with a lot more class than it was,” Walker concluded.
The case will come before an upcoming Council and Committee of the Whole to the County Council. The county council meets on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of each month; the meetings will be streamed live on the Simcoe County YouTube channel.
The by-law change and Wye Heritage Marina details can be found in the council agenda on the Township of Tay website.
Archives of Midland Council meetings, including deputation from the Tiffin Basin Action Committee, are available on Rogers TV and the Town of Midland YouTube channel.
The Tay council meets for regular council meetings every fourth Wednesday of the month. Further information, including the council agenda, is available on the Township of Tay website.