City open to development of woodlot, but process won't be easy, says Windsor mayor

Mayor Drew Dilkens says private property owners of the South Cameron woodlot must go through a series of legislative obstacles before they can propose a development plan to the city.

He says there may not be any possibility of development for the next 30 years

Mayor Drew Dilkens said it will not be easy for those private property owners to develop the South Cameron woodlot. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

Mayor Drew Dilkens said the city has no current plans to develop the South Cameron woodlot, but he's open to proposals if developers can overcome all the barriers.

The question was raised after the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society released a report pushing for the federal government to protect 30 per cent of Canada's natural areas as opposed to its initial goal of 17 per cent, warning Canada's natural areas are headed for a state of emergency.

Back in February, Dilkens thanked the provincial government for removing a provincial wetland designation for nearly 50 acres of the woodlot, allowing private property owners to develop the land if they so choose.

He clarified his stance on what became a contentious issue, saying all he wanted was to see fair treatment of private property owners and for everyone to go through the legal process.

Councillor Jim Morrison said he supports development in the city, but not in the woodlot. (Tahmina Aziz/CBC)

Dilkens said the process for development will not be easy.

"They will have to go through ERCA. They will have to go through Species at Risk legislation. There are a number of hoops that any private property owner there will have to go through," said Dilkens.

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Coun. Jim Morrison, whose ward includes the site, has been vocal about preserving the woodlot since the designation was lifted.

"We have a strategic plan in place that the council approved and one of the key strategies is to increase tree coverage in our city," said Morrison. "The first thing we have to do is stop cutting down any trees."

More tree coverage

Morrison said he supports development in other parts of the city, as long as the land doesn't have any tree coverage, adding trees provide many benefits including shade and homes for species.

In relation to the portion of the woodlot in which the city owns, Dilkens said he doesn't see it being developed any time soon.

"We own a significant part of that woodlot. It's under city ownership. It will remain in a natural state in perpetuity. The city has no plans to develop it nor would we ever," said Dilkens.

"As long as I'm here, we would never develop a part of the woodlot that we own."

with files from Tahmina Aziz and Amy Dodge