Strawberry Island is a small 10 hectare island in the northern end of Lake Simcoe, near Orillia. Throughout centuries, First Nations used this island called “Anatari” meaning “A Meeting Place for the Villagers”, at the very least as a lookout for invaders from the south. In the 1800s, it was apparently sold and has changed hands a few times since then. The Basilian Fathers used it for 90 years as a religious retreat, then sold it in 2007 to a developer, who proposed a massive condo development application and zoning change for the island in 2014.
Since the two Ramara Township public meetings, the developer Trans America Group Inc (now renamed TAG Developments) has made almost no changes to the sprawling development proposal, despite our concerns. A petition against the proposal was signed by over 1700 people in 2015. The developer initially wanted to have 80 condo/cottage units, then increased it to 120 units, then the contract planner at Ramara set the maximum at 80. This is still way too many for this small island. The proposed development will destroy most of the significant woodland, some wetland, damage significant wildlife habitat, remove Species at Risk from the island, likely harm critical, cold-water fish spawning grounds and increase phosphorus loads around the island from levels that exist today. An archaeological survey done in 2015 discovered First Nation artifacts on the island dating from the Woodland Era. Final reports on this important finding have not been made public.
At a Council meeting in July 2015, Ramara Township Council voted and adopted OPA 18, based on what we see as blatantly incomplete and incorrect information provided to Council. All Council members voted for OPA 18 except for Mayor Clarke, who was concerned by its size and impact. It is now in the hands of Simcoe County Council and planners, who have the final say. We have communicated our concerns to Township, County, Conservation Authority and Provincial politicians and staff. We think we have made some progress, but we are not sure.
Simcoe County Council now has the authority to: 1) approve OPA 18, 2) not approve it, 3) approve it with conditions, 4) request more studies. We think the planning report will be discussed soon, but we do not know when. It may happen before March 16, 2016 because that is the deadline by which the developer can appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board. When we know the date and time, we shall post it on our Facebook page: Save Strawberry Island in Lake Simcoe. Please join us in protecting Strawberry Island from the detrimental effects of urban sprawl. You can email, write a letter or call your Mayor or Deputy Mayor (who sit on Simcoe County Council) & communicate your opposition to this destructive development. You can find us on Facebook: Save Strawberry Island in Lake Simcoe or email us at: email@example.com Provide your email and we’ll keep you updated.
Pamela Fulford, Friends of Strawberry Island