Dear Residents of Wentworth,
On September 27th, 2019 the Municipality of Wentworth made public a quantity of letters from residents that clearly illustrate opposition to the WITRI large-scale development project, and the Ryan Report following the June 2019 hearings. We believe it was necessary to publish these letters that show the lack of social acceptability for the project.
This spring, we were encouraged by the proposal to protect the heronry that was submitted to MRC of Argenteuil in May 2019. Recently, on September 18th, 2019, we were delighted to learn in La Presse Plus that the promoter WITRI is aware of your concerns about building a golf course and has suggested he may not continue with this idea.
While these signs are encouraging, there is still more work to do.
Since the February 24, 2019 presentation, given by the mayor on the WITRI concept, the Lake Louisa Property Owners Association (LLPOA) began asking questions about the promoter, the September/October 2018 zoning changes, the project and how the municipality of Wentworth would communicate with the promoter and the residents.
At the moment these words are written, our precious community of Wentworth seems to be divided. Council meetings between elected officials and residents have sparked strong emotions, and all of the LLPOA’s constructive attempts to engage the municipality to implement protections in advance of a project submission from the promoter/WITRI have gone unanswered.
- August 2019 the LLPOA submitted a formal request to modify zoning to include a one-kilometer Protection Zone around Lake Louisa, and to place a moratorium on large-scale development projects until zoning modifications are implemented – to date the LLPOA has not received a response to this request.
- August 2019 the LLPOA formally requested copies of communications sent to residents in the previous year related to zoning changes.
- September 2019 the LLPOA submitted a request to council to
Undertake to voluntarily modify the 2018 “schema d’aménagement” by reverting to the prior assembly of zoning by-laws and to recommence the public consultation process in order to get proper authorization for the proposed changes.
In response to the LLPOA’s ongoing attempts to engage the municipality to review information and table the requests submitted over the past months, the municipality has engaged lawyers to deliver a letter of formal notice that we believe is creating a barrier to transparency and constructive communication and engagement.
Our environmental concerns have only intensified as new information continues to surface, and we learn that the new zoning regulations appear more permissive in terms of densification and land use.
The LLPOA has done a great deal of research and analysis of environmental aspects, zoning changes and the legal consultation process carried out in the fall of 2018 by the municipality.
In our efforts to protect Lake Louisa and its watershed, the LLPOA directors and concerned residents have:
- Launched an awareness campaign with red placards/signs
- Filed a petition of 404 signatures
- Filed numerous access to information requests to Wentworth and the MRC
- Conducted more than 5 meetings with elected representatives and staff of Wentworth and the MRC of Argenteuil
- Held 2 special assemblies of our members, and outlined concerns at the LLPOA Annual General Meeting
So, what does this mean for all permanent and seasonal residents of Wentworth?
Ask yourself if you were aware of the 2018 public consultation process, major zoning changes, the request for a referendum, and the transition away from “country-living” to the prospect of highly commercialized development in the fragile Lake Louisa watershed. If the answer is no, then please contact the municipality and ask them to take measures to protect our fragile lake environment BEFORE a large commercial project is deposited.
Please plan on attending the Monday October 7th council meeting at 7 pm (Address: 86 ch. Louisa, Wentworth).
We see momentum and an opportunity for more inclusive and open dialogue with councilors in the establishment of new measures for the protection of Lake Louisa and its environment.
Zoning Changes 2018
The Wentworth Council passed 8 new bylaws on September 4, 2018.
On July 16, 2019, at a meeting with the Wentworth administration, the LLPOA provided several maps showing the comparison BEFORE and AFTER the zoning and use changes starting from September 4, 2018. These maps created from the careful analysis of the LLPOA were provided to Wentworth for validation on their part. Since then, the LLPOA has received no response from Wentworth to this request. We believe our maps are correct. Nevertheless, the LLPOA is willing to correct any inaccuracies reported to us by the municipality if applicable.
- From this analysis, LLPOA is of the view that many zoning and usage changes have been adopted by Council without proper explanation to residents of Wentworth prior to their adoption.
- If the by-laws of the new schema 2018 are not changed now to protect the environment, it will be very difficult to make any changes if a large-scale development plan is submitted to Wentworth.
On August 27, 2018, residents of Wentworth were invited to a public consultation session related to the 8 new bylaws.
Do you remember the presentation made during this public consultation?
Following a request for access to information, the LLPOA obtained the official presentation document used during the public consultation of August 27, 2018. In this document, there is no mention of changes or additions of uses such as casinos, hotels, bars, discotheques, strip clubs, racetracks, runways and aviation schools, amusement parks, marinas and firing ranges.
The municipality presented these modifications
Why were the following zoning changes not included in the presentation document?
- Casinos (new use in the municipality in the village core – NV26)
- 100 Room Hotels (most of the Wentworth territory now allows for this)
- Bars, discotheques, strip clubs (now possible in the village core – NV26)
- Motorized racetracks, runways, aviation schools and amusement parks (now possible in the cottage area north of Lake Louisa and in the WITRI project area)
- Marinas and firing ranges (are possible in the cottage area north of Lake Louisa in the WITRI project area
We believe that many residents would have remembered these major changes if they had been presented at the August 27, 2018 public consultation meeting.
REQUEST FOR REFERENDUM
On October 22, 2018, residents of Wentworth had the opportunity to express their opposition to 3 main by-laws: zoning, subdivision and building regulations. On October 10, 2018, the notice for a referendum was not published in local newspapers or mailed out to inform residents of this call 12 days later.
How many residents of Wentworth do you think added their names to the registry on October 22, 2018 to request a referendum on these zoning changes?
The answer is zero. Not a single resident of Wentworth took the trouble to register in opposition.
ISSUES – QUESTIONS
- Do you consider that the information given during the public consultation process of August 27, 2018 allowed you to be adequately informed before having the opportunity to sign the referendum request register of October 22, 2018?
- Do you consider that the means used by the municipality to inform you of the date of the request for a referendum, with 12 days of notice at the end of October, were sufficient and that they demonstrated a desire to adequately inform residents of their right to sign the referendum request register?
- Finally, do you consider that the municipality acted in the interests of its residents in this process of consultation and in the request for a referendum to adopt these new regulations that will become law for the next 5 to 10 years?
The goals of the LLPOA have always been to protect the water of Lake Louisa and its environment.
With the announcement of the prospect of the development proposed by WITRI, the scope of our work has changed drastically and concerns for the protection of our fragile lake environment have increased proportionately. During this process, the LLPOA is encouraged by all the moral and financial support we have received from our residents.
We have only one Lake Louisa and it is the jewel that must be preserved for all its residents. Imagine this development proposal had been announced on another lake in Wentworth, we are confident that its association’s directors would have begun the same process as we followed: they would have asked similar questions, analyzed similar documents and tried to understand how the potential consequences could affect their precious lake and their local community.
In conclusion, the LLPOA wishes to point out that we contacted the municipality of Wentworth several times to discuss our request for zoning usage modifications submitted Aug 12th, 2019. Our last invitation to re-establish a dialogue was made last week. So far, the municipality has not shown any interest in proactive discussions in this direction. Instead the municipality seems to be encouraging citizens to be reactive and to wait for a proposal from the developer before taking any further action.
So, as mentioned above, if you want a say in the future direction of our community, and the protection of “country living”, then please contact the municipality and ask them to take measures to protect “country living” and our fragile environment BEFORE a potentially large-scale commercial project is deposited.
The LLPOA team
Attachments to this letter:
- The 6 maps mentioned in this letter demonstrate the differences in zoning and use permitted BEFORE and AFTER September 4, 2018.
- The official presentation document of the municipality presented during the public consultation of August 27, 2018.