| Apr 24, 2019

Usually, when all the stacking chairs at a North Frontenac Council meeting are filled with warm bodies, it means somebody’s getting an award.

But the crowd at last Friday’s meeting was in no mood to give anybody an award. They were there to voice their concerns about the Township’s new Zoning Bylaw.

Zoning Bylaw discussions, as a rule, don’t tend to draw crowds. But two aspects of this one would seem to have created considerable concerns — commercial forestry operations and Areas of Natural or Scientific Interest (ANSI).

In particular, the ANSIs in North Frontenac seemed to draw the most interest.

Some ANSIs date back as far as the late ’60s and were created by the Province of Ontario under the MNR to protect significant areas of biological or geological interest, including old growth forests, unique flora and fauna, species at risk, fossils, mineral deposits or geological structures. Perhaps the best known is the Niagara Escarpment and one new one under consideration is the Marble Lake Stromatolites- arguably the oldest fossils on the planet. ANSIs designated as “provincial” are considered among the best examples of certain aspects in the province.

“We’re not even close to passing the bylaw yet,” Mayor Ron Higgins told the crowd. “This is my No. 1 priority.

“I’m on it every day.”

He said there’s another public meeting on the agenda, likely near the end of May “but we’re not near ready yet.”

In a report to the Township, Megan Rueckwald, manager of community planning, County of Frontenac said there are currently eight confirmed ANSIs within the Township and three more ‘candidate ANSIs.

The confirmed ANSIs are:

The Plevna Cedar Swamp (life sciences, regional)

Snow Road Station Esker (earth sciences, provincial)

Hungry Lake Barrens (life sciences, provincial)

Within the Madawaska Highlands Land Use Plan:

Palmerston Lake (life sciences, regional)

Evergreen Mountain (life sciences, regional)

Summit Lake (life sciences, provincial)

Fortune-Schooner (life sciences, provincial)

Centennial Lake (life science, provincial)

The candidate ANSIs are:

Bishop Corners Schoolhouse (earth sciences, provincial)

Ore Chimney Mine (earth sciences, provincial)

Marble Lake Stromatolites (earth sciences, provincial)

Most of the ANSI lands are on Crown Land, however, the Plevna Cedar Swamp, Snow Road Station Esker, Palmerston Lake and Fortune-Schooner overlap with privately-owned land.

And that’s where the points of contention come in.

“When I read it, it clearly indicates the ANSI (designation) totally applies to Crown Land,” said Coun. Vernon Hermer. “My opinion is that they’ve (MNR) made mapping mistakes and they don’t want to appear foolish.

“That’s why they’re stonewalling.”

“According to the map, it applies to Crown Land, not private land,” said Higgins. “So we’re contesting it.”

“We’ve had like 18 instances of invasive species, gypsy moths being one example,” said Dep. Mayor Fred Perry. “How do we know these things are still there?”

Being designated and Environmental Protection zones doesn’t in itself preclude development in these areas but it does require some studies that wouldn’t necessarily be required in other zones (at a cost of $2,000-$5,000). Also, certain activities (mining, lumbering, hunting) may be restricted depending on what’s being protected in the ANSI.

“And, if you remove the EP in the Zoning Bylaw, a study still has to be done because of the Township and County Official Plan requirements,” said Rueckwald.

The Palmerston Lake ANSI seems to be garnering the most attention. Among the features being protected are a rare form of orchid, and a rare moss, a Great Blue Heron colony, nesting ravens and calcareous-based hardwoods.

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