Uxbridge construction project endangers snapping turtles' love nest, neighbours warn

The fate of some lovelorn snapping turtles has got Uxbridge residents worried, because a condo-townhouse complex has been proposed for a two-hectare field where the reptiles go to mate.

64 townhomes planned for wetland habitat favoured by mating reptiles

Residents in Uxbridge say they see snapping turtles on this path in the spring. (Submitted)

The fate of some lovelorn snapping turtles has got Uxbridge residents worried.

A condo-townhouse complex has been proposed for a two-hectare field on Brock Street. But residents say the marshy area is currently used as a mating and nesting destination for turtles that live across the road in the nearby Uxbridge Bog. 

The reptiles are routinely seen making their way across an emergency access lane that separates the bog from the the flood-prone field where 64 three-story townhomes are to be built,  residents say.

Cheryl Richman is one of several Uxbridge residents who've signed a petition hoping to save the field behind her from development. Neighbours say the field is a popular destination for snapping turtles. (Talia Ricci / CBC News)

"We've seen this magnificent turtle," local resident Cheryl Richman said. "It's going to endanger their habitat because they travel back and forth; they need nesting sites."

Uxbridge Coun. Jack Ballinger says he shares the residents' concerns but also understands that intensification has to happen. (Talia Ricci/CBC)


Although snapping turtles aren't considered endangered or threatened, the federal and Ontario governments have identified them as a species of special concern. The neighbours want more study done to ensure that the turtles' habitat is protected before the development gets the green light. And they've signed a petition to ensure the township pays attention, Richman said.

"We have to protect these unique species and these unique habitats."

The township held a public meeting Sept. 24 to introduce the project to local residents and answer questions, according to Uxbridge Coun. Jack Ballinger.

This two-hectare field includes a drainage ditch, which floods in the spring, making it a popular destination for nearby snapping turtles. But the owner of the land is planning a condo-townhouse development on the site. (Talia Ricci / CBC News)

He said he shares the neighbours concerns, but he also understands the developer's point of view.

"The big buzzword now is intensification so I don't blame the developer," Ballinger said.

"I am concerned. I've lived here for 70 years, but i also know this is just the first stage." 
  
Before the project can proceed, it will need the approval of the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority. The agency told CBC Toronto in a statement that it has just begun to review the proposal.

"We anticipate staff providing the first set of comments within a month," the statement says.

The developer, West Lane Homes, responded in an email to questions from CBC Toronto.

"The residents' concerns you note will be addressed in due course through the normal planning process.The site plan may change as needed to accommodate comments made by the agencies throughout this process," the email reads.

Township planners will gather public reaction to the initial proposal and then consult with the community.