A review of many aspects of the WITRI story over the last few months are to be found in this article by Marc Thibodeau from La Presse Plus.
September 15th, 2019
Dear Ms Black,
Please consider this an official document and forward this letter to the councillors and the mayor for their consideration.
I’m writing today to comment on and ask questions about issues raised at the council meeting of September 9th, 2019.
The main area of concern is the continuing communication problems between Wentworth and its residents. The fact that approximately 130 people turned out for a council meeting in September in itself demonstrates that the taxpayers are unhappy and want answers. The municipality’s response, to strictly limit the time available per person and in total, was a poor start. Thirty minutes of discussion for all of the issues important to Wentworth’s residents is not enough, particularly in the exceptional situation which we are facing. Furthermore the aggressive tone of at least one councillor was unprofessional and unhelpful.
The people sitting near to me were upset by what they saw as a failure of the democratic process, given that their right to be heard and ask questions was being severely restricted. I worried that one gentleman would have a heart attack given his evident anxiety. Like most people in the room, he questioned why we were not permitted to raise all of our concerns and ask follow up questions when the answers were not forthcoming. We all are trying to understand how and why Wentworth got into the current unsatisfactory situation and how we can protect our environment going forward.
One way for the council to reduce the amount of time taken by questions would be for the council to respond openly and fully to all of the questions asked, rather than hide behind vague comments about legal concerns, present arguments that they cannot reply (such as the non-existent non disclosure agreements) and use their power to curtail discussions which the municipality seems to prefer to avoid (council meetings of August 5th and September 9th). These questions will not go away and without communication, the residents will make up their own minds about intent.
One example of a communication failure is the Council’s treatment of the Ryan report. There are many questions surrounding this report:
- Why was taxpayer money spent on an incomplete, unprofessional and biased report to be handed to a developer?
- What was the brief given to Ryan Affairs? Given the report’s serious and numerous failings as a summary of public opinion (please see my email of August 22nd, 2019 and correspondance of fellow residents), it is inexplicable to the residents that this document would not be returned to the writer for a complete rewrite or put in the garbage. Certainly the invoice for such poor work should not have been paid. So why has this not happened? Ms Black’s assertion that the report has been deposited and therefore could not be amended led to confusion. What, in this context, does deposited mean? Why could the report not be amended? Given the lack of clarification, inevitably Wentworth’s citizens will draw their own conclusions. One possibility is that the report says exactly what Wentworth asked Ryan Affairs to conclude and that the exercise was always no more than a public relations stunt.
- Why would the council not discuss the Ryan Report at the September council meeting in order to explain their viewpoints to the community? Passing a resolution for the council members to defer taking a decision stifles input from the residents and creates more distrust.
- Why has the council not responded to my letter about the Ryan report, or the comments submitted by other concerned citizens?
The communication issues have three levels. Firstly there is the lack of response to questions and a lack of information. Secondly there appears to be misinformation. According to CNN, misinformation means false information which is spread whether or not the intention was to mislead. Lastly, there may be disinformation, which involves the deliberate spreading of misleading information.
There are many examples of poor communication by Wentworth.
- Where are the responses to residents’ letters? In particular, I have not yet heard from the municipality about my letters of August 22nd and August 27th, 2019.
- Where are the minutes from the August 5th council meeting? Why have they not been posted online yet?
- Why initially did Wentworth make it so difficult for residents to access the Ryan Report?
- Why did Wentworth not ensure that Ryan Affairs included the red sign campaign, the red shirt campaign, the petitions and the residents’ correspondence prior to the June meeting in their report?
- Why did the municipality choose not to advise the residents of the imminent WITRI plan before the re-zoning exercise was completed so that more residents could participate in the democratic process? We now know from the Ryan report that the mayor and officials of Wentworth had knowledge of the project before that time. The standard answer which Wentworth provides when asked this question is evasive. The municipality provides evidence that the basic minimum level of communication about the by-laws was provided and that they were under no obligation to mention the environmental threat on the horizon. However Wentworth does not address why they did not seek expert advice or participation from the whole electorate on the most important issue ever faced by the municipality.
- The municipality has worked with the Lake Louisa Property Owners Association (LLPOA) for years to devise methods of protecting Lake Louisa, her wetlands and her watershed. Why does the municipality no longer seek the LLPOA’s advice, credit it’s representation of the residents or encourage the LLPOA to speak in meetings? In the body of the Ryan report, there was no mention of the number of people who are represented by the LLPOA or any weight given to the LLPOA’s submission. I attended one meeting at which some council members jeered when an LLPOA member rose to speak. This came across to the audience as rude and an attempt to intimidate. It looked like the councillors did not want to have to listen to the LLPOA’s views. The unanswered question here is when and why did Wentworth turn its back on the LLPOA given Wentworth’s urgent need for environmental advice and a mouthpiece for the community?
- Why didn’t Wentworth provide detailed information to the near neighbours of the new zone RU6 before the by-law vote? Did it not occur to Wentworth that these properties would be seriously impacted by the changes which now permit race tracks, flying schools, amusements parks, firing ranges, 100 room hotels, spas and marinas on their doorsteps?
- Given that the WITRI project would sit in the new RU6 zone on Lake Louisa’s watershed and very near to Lake Louisa’s north shore, why didn’t the municipality seek independent expert environmental advice before introducing by-laws to permit the zoning change in the fall of 2018?
- The previous zoning of that area was Vtfd-25 (villégiature tres faible) in keeping with the urbanism plan in recognition of and to preserve the rural nature of our community. The new zoning designation of commercial recreotouristique contradicts this plan. Why?
- What exactly has happened with the WITRI project? What did the municipality know and what interaction has the municipality had with the developer? A timeline would be appreciated. The residents should not have to read about this development in the news and online.
- Where is the mayor’s response to the LLPOA’s requests for his resignation and a moratorium on the WITRI project? Given the mayor’s unfortunate absence from the September council meeting, the residents were unable to hear his response. I look forward to hearing from the mayor as soon as possible.
There appear to be several examples of misinformation.
- When asking about the WITRI project, we are consistently told by Wentworth that it is only an idea, nothing more than that. Yet the mayor has told us that the developer’s biologist is already on site and we see a promotional commercial document from WITRI last year which shows a photo of the mayor with the developer and displays logos of Wentworth and the MRC. Furthermore, we have seen online plans labelled “The Lake District of Wentworth Golf Course presented by Jason Morrison February 24th, 2019,” So why is Wentworth still saying that the WITRI is nothing more than an idea?
- When asked when the mayor first had contact with the developer, initially he advised that his first contact was in December 2018. The mayor later amended the date to August 2018. More recently we have been advised by Wentworth that the mayor had verbal contact with the developer in May 2018. Which date is right? What other forms of contact have taken place and when?
- The councillors regularly say that the developer probably has not purchased any land yet. However where is the biologist working? If not on land owned by the developer then on whose land and on whose authority?
- Whenever Wentworth is faced with the request to “fix it” and “press undo” to remove this existential threat to Lake Louisa (September 9th council meeting), there is either no response or the response is that there might be legal implications if it were to try. However, Wentworth agreed on Monday that the council could have chosen to vote against the new zoning by-laws in the autumn of 2018. It is this new zoning which most threatens Lake Louisa, her wetlands and her watershed.
- Similarly, when asked if the municipality is under any legal obligation to the developer, the councillors’ answers are always an emphatic no. Yet Wentworth continues to refuse to drop the Ryan report and the letter, both of which are seriously flawed documents. From the residents’ perspective, it is hard to understand why not, unless there are legal considerations of which we are unaware.
- For months we were advised that questions could not be answered due to a non disclosure agreement between the mayor and the developer. Subsequently, the mayor admitted that no such document exists.
- The mayor also said that he has a verbal undertaking with the developer, details of which cannot be shared. Notwithstanding this, we are told that the developer presents no legal threat to Wentworth.
- We were told in the May 6th presentation that Wentworth would surround itself with resource people to reflect together on this project. However so far it appears that the only extra resource which Wentworth has acquired is the help of lawyers and a public relations firm, presumably both paid for by taxpayers, to advise the council members and municipal officials on how to protect themselves. Why? What we need, and should be spending taxpayer money on, is expert help in how to protect our fragile environment.
Citing examples of disinformation is difficult because disinformation occurs when the information being spread is known to be wrong or biased, something which may be suspected but hard to prove when information is unavailable and questions are left unanswered. We don’t know whether or not some of the examples in the above section might more accurately be placed under disinformation.
- An example of disinformation would be if the Ryan Report were to be sent to the developer or used in any way to indicate the view of residents. As the mayor confirmed, you would have to live under a rock to not have seen all of the red signs displayed on residents’ properties. Similarly, every official or council member who has read letters from the community or attended the council meetings must know that the residents do not feel that they have been heard. The report and letter are deeply flawed and the municipality knows it. Using this report in any way would be disinformation.
So, I end as usual with a plea for Wentworth to start communicating with its citizens in an open manner. Please explain what has happened and why Wentworth has legal worries and no legal worries at the same time. Please answer the questions and clarify the inconsistencies discussed above so that trust can begin to be rebuilt. Your citizens have a right to hear and to be heard. It is not too late to protect our community but Wentworth needs to be a positive force.
Thank you for the many calls and emails of encouragement received over this past week. We will be campaigning door-to-door in our community to speak with you, shed light on recent events, and share information as we support the candidate Philippe Cyr, in his efforts to win the open seat on Wentworth council.
In a recent communication, Wentworth council stated that our Mayor had a verbal interaction with the WITRI developer as early as May 2018. This appears to be a departure from the Mayor’s past statements. Many residents will recall that this new date is earlier than he previously indicated in response to questions at past municipal meetings.
While we at the LLPOA continue to be dismayed by the municipality’s response to many of our questions in the past months, rest assured we will continue to speak out, to point out inconsistencies and to help protect your environmental interests and democratic rights.
We are encouraged by your continued support and look forward to speaking with you.
The LLPOA Team
Sept. 16th, 2019.
James Morgan, journalist for The Review newspaper, was in attendance at Wentworth’s General Council Meeting and his report of the meeting made their front page!
Read more here.
Dear Lake Louisa and Wentworth Residents,
The LLPOA recently received a document that is circulating in our community. It was created by Wentworth Integrated Tourism Resorts Inc.(WITRI), for their commercial purposes.
We are sharing only one page of this document. This page is of crucial interest and importance to the residents of Wentworth as it involves the mayor of Wentworth, officials from both Wentworth and the MRC d’Argenteuil, and the developer. The LLPOA is not releasing any commercial aspects detailed in this document.
In the photo, Mayor Jason Morrison is seen sitting next to the developer, Mr. Oliver Tham, and other individuals. On the conference table are several copies of the same working document (which appear to show Lake Louisa and other bodies of water in the WITRI land).
The LLPOA has reliably confirmed that this photo was taken BEFORE early August, 2018 (probably at some time in late spring or early summer 2018) and therefore, BEFORE September 4th, 2018 which is the date when Wentworth Council passed into law an unprecedented assembly of new zoning by-laws which now allow for the extensive commercialization of our municipality. With this photo, the residents of Wentworth can verify that Mayor Jason Morrison was acquainted with the developer, Mr. Oliver Tham, before these by-laws were passed.
Finally, Wentworth residents want to know why the Council, with financial help from the MRC, has committed $32,500 of our tax dollars to hire a public-relations/lobbying firm that is clearly not working on our behalf. Residents ask: Why does Wentworth need an expensive lobbying firm when it should be very clear by now to the entire Council that most Lake Louisa and Wentworth residents do not want a large scale development built in the fragile water-shed of their lake? Why is Council still not listening to its residents?
We have alerted the Minister of the Environment, and the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, about this situation in Wentworth.
If you would like learn more and get answers, please attend the upcoming Wentworth Monthly Council meeting at 7PM, Monday September 9th, at the Wentworth Community Centre (86 Chemin Louisa, Wentworth).
The topics which will be discussed are of vital importance to all Wentworth residents. Please tell your neighbours and friends of this important meeting. Please support the LLPOA!
Respectfully, The LLPOA team
While the Lake Louisa Property Owners Association ( LLPOA/APLL) has noted on more than one occasion that it is highly irregular for a Municipality to provide a prospective developer/proponent a summary of comments before a project plan is deposited, and to present feedback “collected as part of the public hearing process”, we have none-the-less reviewed the report.
Respectfully, the LLPOA/APLL asks that the Counsellors of Wentworth decline to publish, distribute or make available this report in the June 23, 2019 format for the following reasons:
1. The Summary Report fails to fulfill its mandated purpose as noted clearly on the cover page and the introduction. Specifically the Summary Report does not make any reference to the community organizations that contributed feedback in person and in writing outlining the concerns and comments of Wentworth community members and stakeholders. The two obvious omissions refer to the LLPOA/APLL and the Dunany Community Association (DCA), and these community organizations represent the views of the largest Wentworth community groups, as well as the views of the majority of Wentworth community. These organizations have conservatively held over 100 meetings in 2019, and consistently communicated opposition to golf and the large scale development envisioned by WITRD for zone RU6. In fact, the Summary Report also failed to communicate that these organizations represent a significant portion of the population that support and “welcome development when done thoughtfully and according to the rules and regulations in place from all levels of government that doesn’t in any way compromise the environment” – as noted in the DCA and LLPOA/APLL submissions. Further, the Summary Report mentions individual names and anonymous feedback, and quantifies that 18 briefs and 11 verbal presentations were made; and in contrast the Summary Report does not mention that the President of the LLPOA held up over 270 signed petitions from community members documenting wide-spread opposition to golf and the large scale WITRD concept.
Note: In Section 1, Introduction, it is stated that the “purpose of the public hearings was to provide the municipality’s citizens and community organizations with a forum to comment on WITRI’s recreational tourism development concept”. Reference to the petitions should have been included in the summary, and reference to anonymous feedback should not be included in the summary.
Bottom Line: The Summary Report does not meet its mandated purpose, and it is unacceptable to exclude the feedback and contributions from the two largest Wentworth community organizations, it is also unacceptable to not make mention of the 270 petitions from LLPOA/APLL, and it is unacceptable to include references from anonymous individuals in the summary. Before publishing or making the Summary Report available to the WITRD, all contributors should be offered the protection of anonymity – if anonymous content is included in the summary, appendix and verbal testimony.
2. The Summary Report fails to put into context the widespread public concern that resulted in the hiring of a consulting firm to help the council manage the unexpected volume of letters, emails, etc. As the mayor said on a number of occasions, when asked why they had not replied to the residents’ letters within a reasonable delay, he indicated that it was because the staff and councilors had been overwhelmed by the sheer volume of concerns and inquiries expressed by the community.
Note: At several of the public meeting held in 2019 the Mayor promised that the early letters and phone calls received expressing concern and opposition to the WITRI concept would be included in the overall assessment of community support. It appears only some letters and comments submitted via the FAQ portal of the Wentworth website have been included – regular mail and email directed to Wentworth and Councilors have been excluded.
Bottom Line: It is unacceptable that the context outlined above was not included in the summary. Reference to the widespread expression of concern from the Wentworth community and the unmanageable volume of calls and email inquiries, resulting in the hiring of a communications consulting firm must be noted in the summary.
3. The Summary Report also fails to make mention of the significant visual indication of community concerns represented by hundreds of red signs installed on the streets and waterfront of private residences of Lac Louisa, Wentworth and bordering communities.
Note: The Mayor was recorded at a recent meeting stating “You would have to live under a rock to not know about the Red Sign Campaign” (…. in opposition). ]
Bottom Line: Reference to the hundreds of red signs in opposition to golf and large scale development, as well as red signs urging increased protection of the heronry, must be included in the summary.
In summary, the LLPOA/APLL respectfully asks that the June 23, 2019 Summary Report be considered a DRAFT or preliminary report, and if it is shared with the Wentworth community that DRAFT watermarks be clearly visible on each page of a PDF format document.
Please confirm in writing or via email to the LLPOA/APLL, how Wentworth plans to proceed to address the concerns outlined above.
All proceeds go towards the Action Fund to protect the lake from the WITR development. Orders can be made through the Contact Us section or by getting in touch with one of our directors. Adult and youth sizes available.
Over 80 people attended our latest information meeting at the Wentworth Community Centre. ?They were brought up to date on the WITRI opposition. Many brought home brand new hand painted red signs to adorn their properties. Good questions were asked. Petitions were signed and contributions to the legal fund were made too. ?Wentworth Council was invited, but neither the Mayor, nor any of the Councillors responded to the invitation, nor were in attendance. ?Andr? Cliche, a councillor from Wentworth North accepted our invitation and spoke at the meeting. The new presentation will be appearing on the website soon
This meeting was very well attended by the residents of Wentworth. It began at 5:00 PM instead of the usual starting time of 7:00 PM, to allow for two power-point presentations: one on the promoter?s agreement by-law project (2019-005) and the other was about the review process for any large scale property development. It was announced that the municipality is taking steps to elevate the protection status of the heronry to the provincial level. Due to the large volume of questions posed by residents, mostly regarding the WITRI development, the meeting ran on past 9:30 PM.
The Red Sign Campaign got off to a great start Saturday, May 4th in the LLSC parking lot.
We are making more. Let us know if you would like one. A municipal bylaw prohibits the posting of signs on trees. We ask that you mount them on posts.
Investors eyeing major development in our community
On December 20, 2018, the township of Wentworth issued a press release indicating the interest of Australian investors to purchase and develop an important tract of land bordering Lake Louisa to the north for recreational tourism purposes.
Spanning over 1500 acres, a two billion dollar, five village, five hotel, spa, golf course and retirement complex has been proposed to be built over 20 years by the newly created Wentworth Integrated Tourism Resort Inc.
Of utmost importance to the citizens of Wentworth is the preservation of the health of Lake Louisa and the potential disruption to the fragile balance of nature that allows both our lake and the surrounding environment to thrive.
In an effort to maintain transparency and address the questions and concerns of its citizens, the council held an open information session on February 24, 2019. Despite the harsh, inclement weather of that day, interest in the development was so great that the Rec Centre was overfilled, with citizens taking all available space within the centre.
Despite the promoter’s readiness to develop the project with the council and respect and address the concerns of our citizens and the potential economic windfall to our municipality, reaction to the presentation was mixed.
Our members have expressed that, although many aspects of the promoter?s proposal could potentially benefit them by encouraging further development in the area and providing much needed corporate tax dollars and other proposed advantages, concerns about how the negative effects of such an immense project could have on the environment surrounding the lake were significant. Primarily, concerns about how construction would affect the watershed area inherent in this tract of land, on the health of the lake, as well as human waste disposal, the potential use of pesticides and fertilizers and increased traffic via roads that were not conceived to accommodate this level of activity.
The LLPOA has drafted the following letter in response.
March 20, 2019
To the Wentworth Mayor and Council Members,
On behalf of the Lake Louisa Property Owners Association, I am writing to express our alarm about the presentation at the Wentworth Community Centre on February 24th.
We recognize the potential economic benefit for the area if the Wentworth Integrated Tourism Resort Inc. (WITRI) proposal goes ahead, however we fear the probability of irreversible environmental damage to our lake.
There are 816 residential properties in Wentworth now, over 450 of those are around Lake Louisa. They have a reasonable expectation that their municipal government will represent their best interests and will do everything within its power to protect the reason they are here. That reason is Lake Louisa itself.
Our residents have worked hard to protect our lake. They are proud of how clean it is. They make use of the information on ecological practices provided to them by the LLPOA, and abide by the protective bylaws put in place by the municipality. They understand the delicate balance between human activity and the health of the lake must be maintained, which would be impossible with a development of the size proposed.
We appreciate that some modifications have been made to the plan to make it more agreeable to the community, such as forgoing the use of the Lake Louisa North Road and any direct access to the lake which may be available to the WITRI, however, these changes would not alleviate the threat to the lake water itself.
By their own admission, the WITRI and its affiliated group will be testing a concept created for use in other environments and climates. As was discussed in the presentation, their project in our municipality would be the first of other developments they hope to build in North America. We are not at all convinced that the construction of a 5 village development and a golf course in a prohibitive terrain could be realized without significant environmental damage. Moreover, it is common knowledge that the negative environmental impact of a golf course is enormous, especially since its placement is directly within our watershed. This is of great concern to our residents, judging from the pulse of the attendees, LLPOA members and residents on the lake.
On behalf of our members, we urge you to use all mechanisms at your disposal, to either block this plan in its present form, or to shape it into a project that will not threaten the health of Lake Louisa. We would be happy to work with you to develop strategies that will minimize any impact on the health of the lake, our flora and our fauna.
President Lake Louisa Property Owners Association
At this point in time, the LLPOA has committed to keeping a watchful eye on this proposal. We encourage you to share your comments either directly with us at email@example.com or with the city council, with a copy to the LLPOA. It is also important to register to receive updates from the township of Wentworth.