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Ontario Cottage Country Property Owners Fear A “Campground Coup” By Seasonal Residents

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Residents and campsite renters are divided in the Wollaston township.

A growing number of “vacationers” are trying to influence local government by forming a voting bloc, claim long-time residents in a small cottage country township in Hastings County in Ontario.

Since 2018, hundreds of two RV campground renters have registered to vote in Wollaston, a densely forested township of 22,000 hectares located halfway between Toronto and Ottawa.

The last civic election saw campground registrants outnumber “permanent voters” 664 to 605, thereby electing a council that was deeply divided on a range of issues, from environmental concerns at a local lake to the sale and development of green space in townships.

This ongoing dispute is a major issue in small Ontario towns. One legal professor suggests that the question of who qualifies for a tenant will become more important in the age of short-term rentals.

Graham Blair, a former reeve from Wollaston, said, “I call that a ‘campground coup,” after he lost his seat three years ago.

This area contains several conservation areas such as beaver ponds, wetlands, and more. It is also popular with ATV enthusiasts as well as campers who park their trailers at Red Eagle and Bear Ridge campgrounds.

Today, three of Wollaston’s five councilors are comprised of the Bear Ridge owner, his bookkeeper, and a camper.

Blair and other community members claim that the result of this concentration of power has been that both vacation businesses have an insufficient septic system, and the council is indifferent to enforcement. This has led to a decline in the health and safety of the local lake.

A 40-hectare green space with trails and trees, known as Nellie Lunn Park (bequeathed to the township by a veteran of World War II) has been proposed for sale by the council. Residents of the township have grown to oppose the sale.

The elected representatives of their constituents, the three councilors, however, are continuing to defend their right as elected officials to make decisions about the township.

Wollaston’s “civil warfare” story came to an end in August when property owners and long-term residents threatened the invocation of the province’s Environmental Bill of Rights. This allows Ontarians to take part in environmental decision-making processes.

David Donnelly is the group’s attorney and is seeking evidence of approval for environmental compliance as well as any outstanding provisions that would allow for expansion of campgrounds in the Township of Wollaston.

He said that trailer parks “seem to be doing something that normal residents cannot do”, citing examples of campground owners being given permission to expand.

The lawyer referred to environmental regulations and bylaws, saying that “free passes” have been granted to two large trailer parks in the vicinity.

Fred McConnell is the lake steward for the Wollaston Cottage and Home Association. He said that Wollaston Lake itself has “shown signs of stress” due to indifferent enforcement of environmental regulations pertaining to the campgrounds.

According to him, the phosphorus levels in the summer were three times higher than their usual July values. A high level of phosphorus can cause algae blooms to increase, which can in turn affect fish populations.

Donnelly said that his clients will be calling for an investigation by Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment, Conservation, and Parks if the Township continues to ignore these contraventions.

Original Article:

Canada – Modern Campground Read More

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