A group of cottagers and year-long residents are declaring a small victory after the Ontario Municipal Board recently ruled against a proposed condo development at the site of the destroyed Minaki Lodge.
After 11 days of hearings earlier this year, the OMB ruled in October against a proposed development called "Minaki on the River," spearheaded in 2010 by Steinbach developers Schinkel Properties. The proposal would see the former site of the Minaki Lodge renovated and developed into 56 condos and 96 new cottages.
In their decision, the OMB said Minaki on the River Inc.'s plan to use private communal sewage treatment is not allowed under provincial policy. Since the proposal required the development to share the use of the former Lodge's treatment plant without municipal support, the project could not go ahead.
Minaki on the River Inc. contends the OMB made a mistake and have asked for leave to appeal the ruling to Divisional Court, said David Banman, one of the partners in the project.
"We can actually appeal the Ontario Municipal Board's decision which is what we're asking the court to take a look at, to see if there's a case, whether there's a mistake made at the OMB level."
Minaki on the River Inc. believes that the sewage plant is adequate for the development and Banman said they were given a licence in 2014 to run the plant at an even higher density than currently proposed, said Banman.
"Obviously we're disappointed but that's one of those things that happen with developments like this," he added. "It's been a twisting and turning saga and this is just one more twist and turn."
Aside from the concerns surrounding the sewage treatment plant, there were concerns from Wabaseemoong Independent Nation and Ochiichagwe'Babigo'Ining Ojibway Nation downstream about the impact on fishing and water quality for the Winnipeg River, on which Minaki is located.
Public health and safety and land use were also questioned, said Mark Engebretson of the Minaki Cottagers Association, but density is the real concern.
"This proposal was so spectacularly dense, that it was almost unimaginably out of scale and context for Minaki. Minaki is a not-dense, wilderness setting, a little, tiny community based on tourism.
"The developers who proposed it, without having talked to anybody in 2010, have never seemed to understand that."
The year-long residents and local cottage owners have wanted to see development happen on the site, said Engebretson, since Minaki Lodge burned to the ground in 2003.
"This is the Minaki Lodge site, and it should be in use. There should be people on it," said Engebretson. "It would be so easy to develop it in a manner where the density and usage fit and enhance Minaki."
"We are fine with the thought that it could be a site for seasonal, residential use," he added, noting the residents would like to see 15-20 residential cottages on the site, which would allow for septic fields instead of the treatment plant, and also mitigate their other concerns.
Banman said the site has always housed hundreds of people when the hotel was up and running, and the infrastructure can support more than they're proposing.
"I think we're so far apart with what we see as being appropriate on that property that I'm just not sure how much common ground there is," said Banman, adding the groups have tried to hammer out their differences before.